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International Current Affairs 2021

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International Current Affairs - June 2021

International Everest Day:  This day is observed on 29 May every year in memory of the first summit of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on the day in 1953. Sir Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa from Nepal became first humans to achieve the feat. Nepal decided to observe the day as International Everest Day since 2008, when the legendary climber Hillary passed away. The day is celebrated with processions, memorial events, and special events in Kathmandu, Nepal and the Everest region.

Mount Everest: Mount Everest is Earth's highest mountain above sea level with elevation of 8,848 m. It is a peak in the Himalaya mountain range. It is located between Nepal and Tibet, an autonomous region of China.  It is located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas. Mount Everest is also called Chomolungma in Tibet and Sagarmatha in Nepal. It got its name as Everest in 1841, as a tribute to Sir George Everest who was a Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843.

Uganda: Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Uganda) is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Uganda lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom. The capital of Uganda is Kampala. The currency used here is Ugandan shilling. The current President of Uganda is Yoweri Museveni.

Recently, The President of the Republic of Uganda Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni inaugurated the war game centre “INDIA” conceptualised by Indian military team for Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF). Indian Association in Uganda, with help of the Indian Military training team, set up a military war game centre in Jinja district. The state of the art military training facility was handed over by the Indian Association Uganda (IAU), in association with the Indian Military Advisory and Training Team to the UPDF.

The war game centre 'INDIA' is a type of strategy game that simulates warfare realistically, as opposed to abstract strategy games such as chess. It was constructed with an amount of over 1 billion Ugandan Shillings ($265,000). The Ugandans of Indian origin made voluntary contributions for the establishment of war game centre. 

WHO: It refers to the World Health Organisation. WHO was created in 1948 by member states of the United Nations (UN) as a specialized agency with a broad mandate for international public health. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The main objective of WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible standard of health." It plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease. Its mission is to improve people's lives, to reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to provide access to responsive health care for all people. The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board. The current Director-general of WHO is Tedros Adhanom.

Recently, WHO announced that 8 vaccine candidates for COVID-19 have entered human trials while another 110 are in various stages of development across the globe.

Human Challange Trial: In a human challenge trial, participants are deliberately exposed to the infection (in this case it is SARS-CoV-2 virus), in order to study the disease and test the vaccines. The regultory authorities determine and approve of the exact virus strain that will be used to infect the participant and dosage or how much of the virus the volunteers need to be exposed. Human challenge trial method has been used before also. It has been used for developing vaccines for seasonal malaria, flu, typhoid and cholera, among others.

This method is used because a lot of time may be lost waiting for a trial subject to contract the disease naturally. Until then whether the vaccine works or not cannot be tested.

BRICS: It is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies which are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as "BRIC", before the induction of South Africa in 2010. The BRICS members are known for their significant influence on regional affairs. All are also the members of G20. Since 2009, the BRICS nations have met annually at formal summits. BRICS headquarter is situated at Shanghai, China. BRICS members are known for their influence in regional affairs.

Recently, the meeting of the Heads of Tax Authorities of the BRICS countries was held through video conference in view of COVID-19. The meeting was hosted by the Federal Tax Service of Russia, which currently holds the BRICS Presidency. India was represented by Dr. Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Finance Secretary, and Government of India (GoI).

The meeting was held not only to discuss the response of BRICS Tax Authorities to the COVID-19 pandemic but also to explore potential areas of cooperation in tax matters. India shared several measures that are being taken to mitigate the effect of COVID-19. India extended its support in addressing tax challenges at the OECD and G-20. The measures in terms of tax administration were also shared by the other tax heads.

LAC: It refers to the Line of Actual Control. LAC is the effective border between India and China. It is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory. The LAC is 4,057-km long and it is divided into 3 sectors which are the eastern sector which spans Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the middle sector in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and the western sector in Ladakh and Kashmir.

Recently there were reports of the movement of hundreds of army vehicles parked just 25 to 30 KM away from Indian side of the LAC over the past few weeks. The troop movement of Chinese military comes at a time when both the countries are in a stand-off along the Line of Actual Control at Pangong Tso and the Galwan river valley. Additionally, the Chinese PLA troops completed the construction of a 3 km long road on the north bank of Pangong Tso lake from Finger 5 to Finger 8. At present, as tensions continue between India and China along the LAC the Indian and Chinese armies are in talks to address the issue of LAC and sort the differences over the border area in eastern Ladakh.

The reason for the continuous disputes between china and India are that for India, the LAC is 3,488 km long, however for China, it is just 2,000 km long. The major disagreements between India and China are over the LAC in the Western sectors (Ladakh). There is no clarification on the LAC boundary.

China and India have signed 4 agreements on this boundary issue. These agreements were signed in September 1993, November 1996, April 2005 and October 2013. Indian & Chinese bilateral talks on border disputes are held on the basis of these four agreements. However, these agreements are considered to be flawed and are unable to resolve the boundary issue between the countries.

LAC & LOC: The LAC is the Line of Actual Control between India and China where as LOC is the Line of Control between India & Pakistan. The LAC is not located in the map of both the countries and there is no agreements regarding this where as the LOC is located on the map of both the countries and is backed by the Shimla Agreement.

THAAD: It refers to Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. THAAD is a transportable, ground-based missile defense system. This anti-ballistic missile defence system is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles in the terminal phase of their approach to a target and it is alarmed about incoming missiles by space-based satellites with infrared sensors. The THAAD system consists of five major components namely interceptors, launchers, radar, a fire control unit and support equipment. It has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin.

Recently, China has been objecting to the presence of the US THAAD missile defence system in South Korea. According to China's foreign ministry, the THAAD system will harm peace and stability in the region, despite its ability to detect and shoot down North Korean missiles.

However, THAAD is not only deployed in South Korea but also in UAE, Guam, Israel and Romania. THAAD missile defense system is operated by the US army stationed in its army base in Osan, South Korea. 

India & Australia: Recently, an India-Australia Bilateral Virtual Summit was held between PM Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. This is the first ever virtual bilateral summit to be held by India. 

During their meet both the leaders signed several agreements and the COVID-19 measures being implemented in their respective countries was also discussed.

The agreements signed by both India and Australia are:-

1. Framework Arrangement on Cyber Enabled critical Technology

2. MoU on cooperation in processing of Critical and Strategic    minerals

3. MoU on cooperation in mining and processing of strategic    minerals.

4. Implementing arrangement related to cooperation in Defence

5. MoU on the field of Governance Reforms and Public  Administration

6. MoU on understanding water resource management

7. MoU on cooperation of training and vocational education

The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) signed by both the countries will allow them to have access to each other’s military bases. They agreed to broaden defence cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities. They also agreed to boost cooperation in the maritime domain.

India and Australia held their first bilateral naval exercise in 2015. The exercise was called AUSINDEX. Both the countries also hold bilateral army exercises called AUSTRAHIND.

India has already signed similar agreements with the US, France and Singapore.

USA: It refers to the United States of America. USA is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. The capital of US is Washington, D.C. The currency used in USA is United States dollar - USD also abbreviated US$. The current President of US is Donald Trump.

Recently, the US President Trump signed an executive order regarding liability protections for social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook for content posted on these platforms. This order will scrap some of the legal protections accorded for social-media platform.

 

Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, tech companies currently enjoy broad immunity from civil lawsuits stemming from what users post because they are treated as “platforms” rather than “publishers”. However, as per the executive order, online platforms are engaging in “selective censorship” and that Twitter’s labeling of Trump’s Tweets shows “political bias”.

The move is seen as a retaliation by Trump against social media giants after Twitter factchecked him for the first time over a false assertion that mail-in voting leads to widespread voter fraud. Trump said the fact checks were editorial decisions by Twitter and amounted to political activism.

This executive order aims to narrow their protections from liability over the content posted on their services. Trump’s executive order is designed to pressure regulators, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to come up with new rules that would curtail that immunity.

 CDA: It refers to Communication Decency Act. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 is a piece of Internet legislation in the United States. It provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by third-party users.

An Executive Order: An executive order is a written directive issued by the President and is one of the most common presidential documents. Such orders are not legislations and don’t require the approval of the Congress, which also means that the Congress cannot overturn them.  According to the American Bar Association, Congress may pass legislation that makes it difficult or impossible to carry out an executive order, such as removing funding. However, ultimately, only a sitting US president can overturn an executive order by issuing another one to that effect.

WFSD: It refers to the World Food Safety Day. WFSD is celebrated every year on June 7 to draw global attention to the health consequences of contaminated food and water. The United Nations General Assembly declared June 7 as the World Food Safety Day in 2018. WFSD was first celebrated in 2019 to strengthen commitment to scale up food safety made by the Addis Ababa Conference and the Geneva Forum in 2019 under the umbrella of “The Future of Food Safety”. World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) pursues its efforts to mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally.

WFSD 2020 was celebrated on 7 June 2020 under the theme “Food safety, everyone’s business”. According to WHO, under this year's theme 'Food safety, everyone's business', the action-oriented campaign aims to promote global food safety awareness and call upon countries and decision-makers, the private sector, civil society, UN organizations and the general public to take action. As food safety is a shared responsibility in which everybody has a role to play so it is the duty of all to ensure that the food which is consumed is safe and will not cause damages to our health. Food safety is the key to achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals and WFSD brings it into the spotlight, to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks. Safe food contributes to economic prosperity, boosting agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

IPAC: It refers to the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance. IPAC is an international cross-party group of legislators working towards reforms to help counter the threat China’s growing influence poses to global trade, security and human rights.

 Recently, a group of senior lawmakers from 8 democracies including the US have launched the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance (IPAC) on China to counter China. IPAC was launched on 5 June 2020 to help counter what the threat posed by China’s growing influence to global trade, security and human rights.

The main aim of the IPAC is to construct appropriate and coordinated responses, and to help craft a proactive and strategic approach on issues related to China. The 8 participating Nations of IPAC are US, Germany, UK, Japan, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway as well as members of the European parliament.

India-Denmark: India and Denmark have recently signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with an aim to develop a strong, deep and long-term co-operation between two nations in the power sector. The Indian electricity market would benefit from cooperation with Denmark in all the aspects of power.

The memorandum was signed between Denmark’s Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, and India’s Power Ministry. The MOU was signed by the Secretary (Power), Sanjiv Nandan Sahai and Ambassador of Denmark to India, Freddy Svane.

 

Under the MoU, both the countries have agreed to collaborate in areas such as long- term energy planning, forecasting, offshore wind, flexibility in the grid, consolidation of grid codes to integrate and operate efficiently variable generation options, incentivize power plant flexibility, flexibility in the power purchase agreements and variability in renewable energy production.

As per the MOU, to implement the agreement of the identified areas, a Joint Working Group (JWG) will be established and co-chaired by joint Secretary-level officials who will report to a Steering Committee jointly chaired by the Secretary level officers from both the sides.

The approval for this Cooperation agreement between the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of India and Ministry for Energy, Utilities and Climate of the Kingdom of Denmark on the strategic sector of power were approved by the Union Cabinet chaired by the PM Modi in June last year. A Letter of Intent to establish an Indo-Danish Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy in India was also signed in this respect.

Denmark: Denmark officially the Kingdom of Denmark, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It is a Scandinavian country comprising the Jutland Peninsula and around 406 islands. It is bordered to the west by the North Sea, and its islands are located on the sea lane from the Baltic to the main oceans of the world, as well as the trade route from the Nordic countries to Central Europe. It is an independent country since the late 10th century and is also one of the oldest states of Europe. The capital of Denmark is Copenhagen. The currency used here is Danish Krone. The current prime minister of Denmark is Mette Frederiksen.

ASEAN: It refers to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN is a regional intergovernmental organisation and it comprises of 10 countries in Southeast Asia. It was created on 8 August 1967 by 5 countries namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand. The ASEAN Secretariat is located at Jakarta, Indonesia. It was created with an aim to promote intergovernmental cooperation. The organisation also facilitates political, economic, military, educational, security, and socio-cultural integration among its members as well as in other countries in Asia. ASEAN has been India’s utmost priority under its Act East Policy. The 10 member countries are Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Laos

Recently, the third India-ASEAN Youth Dialogue as held between June 8, 2020 and June 10, 2020. The dialogue took place in virtual mode. The dialogue primarily revolved around the fight against the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic.

During the dialogue, India and ASEAN pledged to enhance cooperation in ways to effectively and constructively in skill development, youthful energy, and education. These areas were identified as a strategic partnership between the two countries. The leaders also acknowledged the re-establishment and revival of Nalanda University in Bihar. Nalanda University has been offering several scholarship programs for ASEAN students.

IDFR: It refers to the International Day of Family Remittances. The IDFR is a universally-recognized observance. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed the resolution A/RES/72/281 and designated the day on 16 June.   The day recognizes the contribution of over 200 million migrants to improve the lives of their 800 million family members back home who help improve the lives of their family members in their home countries. The first IDFR was celebrated in 2015.  Its aim is to encourage public and private sectors, as well as civil society, to do more together and collaborate to maximize impact of remittances in developing world.

Recently, the International Day of Family Remittances (IDFR) 2020 was observed on 16 June. The theme for this year is "Remittances are a lifeline."

The day was observed under unprecedented conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the ongoing pandemic, millions of migrant workers have lost their jobs, and many remittance families are suddenly pushed below the poverty line. So, in March 2020, the UN Secretary-General called for global solidarity in responding to the coronavirus crisis stating “remittances are a lifeline in the developing world – especially now”.

Remittance: Remittance means a sum of money sent in payment or as a gift. It is a transfer of money by foreign worker to individual or family in their home country. It competes with international aid as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries.

Kyrgyzstan: Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic and also known as Kirghizia, is a country in Central Asia. It is a landlocked country with mountainous terrain. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. The Capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek. The national drink is horse milk which is known as kumyz there. The 40 sun rays on the flag represent the country's original 40 tribes. The currency of Kyrgyzstan is Kyrgyzstani som.

Recently, the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev resigned from the post. He resigned allegations against the government in a criminal case on the extension and renewal of radio frequency resources.

He was appointed as the 20th Prime Minister of the country by President Sooronbai Jeenbekov in April 2018.

India and UNSC: India has recently been elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the term 2021-22 after winning 184 votes in the 193-member General Assembly. India was a candidate for a non-permanent seat from the Asia-Pacific category for the 2021-22 term. Along with India, Ireland, Mexico and Norway also won the Security Council elections. India will be serving as president of the power 15 nation UN body for August 2021.

The main objective of India during the fresh tenure in UNSC will be the achievement of O.R.M.S. which stands for New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System. This is for the eighth time that India will sit at the UN high-table. India has earlier been a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2011-12.

UNSC: It is an acronym for United Nations Security Council. UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. It was founded on 24 October 1945. It is Headquartered in New York, United States. It is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Security Council comprises of 15 members out of which five members are permanent and 10 are non-permanent members elected for a period of two years. Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

These 10 seats are distributed among the regions of the world: five seats for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; and two for Western European and Other Countries. Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia. Also, there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one seat for an Arab country. The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.

Its function includes the establishment of peacekeeping operations and international sanctions as well as the authorization of military actions through resolutions. It is the only body of the United Nations (UN) with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The council held its first session on 17 January 1946.

Russian Victory Day Parade: Russia, at present is the largest of the countries of the former Soviet Union. It continues the practice of parades held in honor of the victory won in the Great Patriotic War - the Eastern Front of the Second World War as called by the Soviet Union. Victory Day is a holiday that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It was first inaugurated in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time).  As the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian President is the Guest of Honor for the parade.

During the World War-II, one of the largest allied forces against the Axis powers was the British Indian Armed Forces contingent. About 87 thousand Indian armed forces servicemen sacrificed their lives while approx 35 thousand were wounded.

Recently, the Defence Ministry announced that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will attend the Victory Parade in Russia. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu had invited Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to take part in the Victory Day Parade scheduled to be held in Moscow. India has already sent a contingent of 75 personnel from its three armed forces to Moscow to participate in Russia's 75th World War II Victory Day parade on June 24. 2020. The marching contingent taking part in the Victory Day Parade is to be led by a major rank officer of the gallant Sikh Light Infantry Regiment. Contingents of other countries are also expected to participate in the parade.

The Victory Parade which is held every year on 9 May marks the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It was originally scheduled on the 9th of May but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Parade is organised to honour the heroism and sacrifices made by the Russian and other friendly people.

China: China, officially the People's Republic of China, is a country in East Asia. It is governed by the Communist Party of China. It is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, the People's Liberation Army, and the second-largest defense budget. The capital of China is Beijing. The currency used here is Yuan (CNY) and Renminbi (RMB). The yuan is the unit of account of the country's economic and financial system while Renminbi is the official currency of China where it acts as a medium of exchange. The current President of china is Xi Jinping.

Recently, China has decided to join the UN Arms Trade Treaty (UN-ATT) to regulate arms sales saying it is committed to efforts to "enhance peace and stability" in the world. The Communist Party leadership's top legislative body of China voted to adopt a decision on joining the UN-ATT that is designed to control the flow of weapons into conflict zones.  The decision comes after U.S. President Donald Trump announced plans last year to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.

ATT: It refers to Arms Trade Treaty. ATT is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships, and controls the flow of weapons into conflict zones. The treaty was adopted at the United Nations General Assembly on 2nd April 2013. It entered into force on 24 December 2014. The treaty was launched with the aim of maintaining international and regional peace.

Under this treaty, member countries are required to keep records of international transfers of weapons and to prohibit cross-border shipments that can be used in human rights violations or attacks on civilians.

The treaty is an attempt to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons for the purpose of contributing to international and regional peace; reducing human suffering; and promoting cooperation, transparency, and responsible action by and among states.

AT present 130 countries have originally signed the treaty but only 104 have joined it. India has not signed the treaty. 

Serbia: Serbia, officially the Republic of Serbia, is a landlocked country situated at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe in the southern Pannonian Plain and the central Balkans. It borders Hungary to the north, Romania to the northeast, Bulgaria to the southeast, North Macedonia to the south, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to the west, and Montenegro to the southwest.  Its capital is Belgrade which ranks among the largest and oldest cities in southeastern Europe. The currency used here is Serbian dinar.

Recently, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) coalition, under the leadership of the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic registered a landslide win in 2020 parliamentary election. Serbia became the first country to conduct National Elections in Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in March 2020.

Ana Brnabic who is the first female Prime Minister of Serbia) is the incumbent Prime Minister of Serbia. She became the Prime Minister in 2017 after President Aleksandar Vucic proposed her name.

The National Assembly of Serbia has a unicameral legislature. The Prime Minister of Serbia is elected and and appointed by the 250 elected members of the National Assembly. The President of Serbia has the power to propose the name of an individual to the National Assembly for the post of the Prime Minister.

Senkaku Islands: The Senkaku Islands are a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. They are located east of Mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are known as the Diaoyu Islands in Mainland China, the Diaoyutai Islands in Taiwan and the Pinnacle Islands by other observers. Japan annexed the archipelago following China’s defeat in the first Sino-Japanese war from 1894 to 1895. Japan administers and controls the Senkaku islands as part of the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture.

Recently, Japan has approved a plan to change the name of the area covering the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands from Tonoshiro to Tonoshiro Senkaku. It was approved by the local council in southern Japan.

China said the move is illegal and a serious provocation. The islands are the focus of a territorial dispute between Japan and China and between Japan and Taiwan.

United Nations Public Service Day: It is observed on June 23 every year globally. The General Assembly, on 0 decembe 2002 designated 23 June as Public Service Day by adopting resolution 57/277. This day highlights the contribution of public service in the development process and recognizes the work of public servants.

The prestigious UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA) are also awarded on this day by the United Nations Economic and Social Council for contributions made to the cause of enhancing the role, prestige, and visibility of public service.

The day also marks the anniversary of the date when the International Labour Organization adopted the Convention on Labour Relations (Public Service), 1978 (No. 151). This Convention is a framework for determining working conditions of all civil servants across the world.

Recently, UN Public Service Day 2020 was observed on June 23 to honour public servants in the COVID-19 pandemic response.

This year the UN held a virtual event to engage public servants from across the world and discuss the stiff challenges the pandemic is throwing at frontline workers and citizens virtually every day.

Los Angeles (LA): Los Angeles often known by its initials L.A., is the largest city in California, United States. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis.

Recently, the world's first yoga university outside India has been launched in Los Angeles, United States as a part of the 6th International Yoga Day commemorations. The virtual launch event was organized at New York City’s Consulate General of India. The university was jointly launched by Chairperson of the Standing Committee on External Affairs P P Chaudhary and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on June 23 during a virtual meeting in New York.

The Yoga University has been named after Swami Vivekananda and it  will be known as Vivekananda Yoga University (VaYU). VaYU will offer programmes that combine scientific principles and modern research approach to the ancient Indian practice.

The chancellor of SVYASA- Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (Deemed University at Bengaluru for the study of yoga), Dr H R Nagendra will be the first Chairman of the Vivekananda Yoga University.

The first day of classes for the fall 2020 semester of the University will commence on 24th August 2020. Online Master’s Program in Yoga (M.S Yoga) will also be offered by the University.

Myanmar: Myanmar officially the Republic of the Union of Myanma  was formerly known as Burma,. It is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups. It is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. Myanmar has been a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1997. The Capital of Myanmar is Naypyitaw. The currency used here Burmese kyat. The current President of Myanmar is Win Myint.

Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the additional investment of US$ 121.27 million (about Rs.909 crore) by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) towards further development of blocks A-1 and A-3 Blocks of Shwe oil & gas project in Myanmar.

OVL has been associated with exploration and development of Shwe project in Myanmar since 2002, as part of consortium of companies from South Korea, India and Myanmar. The Indian PSU, GAIL, is also an investor in this project. OVL has invested US$ 722 million till 31st March 2019 in this project.

The first gas from the Shwe Project was received in July 2013 and plateau production was reached in December 2014. The Project has been generating positive cash flows since FY 2014-15.

The participation of Indian PSUs in oil & gas exploration and development projects in neighbouring countries is aligned with India's Act East Policy, and also part of India's efforts to develop Energy Bridges with its immediate neighbours.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC): Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has recently called United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to establish a permanent commission to report on human rights violations in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

The move comes in the wake of the latest surge in violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Proposed Permanent Commission:

  • The Proposed Commission will be an independent, international commission of inquiry.
  • It will be appointed by the UNHRC president to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Israel and Palestinian areas.
  • The Commission will authorize “commission of inquiry (COI)” which is the highest level of scrutiny.
  • The commission would also investigate all underlying root causes of recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict including discrimination and repression.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OCI):

  • OIC is the second-largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations.
  • It was established upon a decision of the historical summit which took place in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, in 1969.
  • It is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • It comprises of 57 states as its members.
  • It represents the collective voice of the Muslim world.
  • It works for the protection of the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.

Note: India is not a member of the OIC. However, India was invited as a guest of honour at the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 2019.

United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR):

  • UNHCR is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.
  • It was founded on 15 March 2006 by the UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251.
  • It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
  • The Council comprises of 47 Member States, which are elected by the UN General Assembly.
  • The Council's Membership is based on equitable geographical distribution.
  • The members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
  • Its main task is to investigate allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states. It also addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of expression, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.

Note: India was elected to the Council for a period of three years beginning 1st January 2019.

 

World No-Tobacco Day: Every year, on 31st May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and global partners celebrate World No Tobacco Day (WNTD).

  • The day is celebrated to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and the preventable death and disease it causes.

WNTD Theme of 2021:

  • This year theme of the 2021 WNTD is “Commit to quit.”
  • Under this theme, the WHO aims to promote tobacco cessation through supporting robust tobacco cessation policies, improving access to cessation services, raising awareness about the tactics of the tobacco industry and supporting people who want to quit tobacco via Quit and Win initiatives.

History:

  • In 1987, the World Health Assembly passed Resolution WHA40.38, calling for April 7, 1988, to be "a world no-smoking day."
  • In 1988, Resolution WHA42.19 was passed, calling for the celebration of World No Tobacco Day, every year on May 31.
  • This date was chosen as it was the 40th anniversary of the World Health Organization.
  • World No Tobacco Day has been observed every year on 31st May since 1989.

Aim:

  • This yearly celebration aims to raise awareness amid the global citizens about not only the dangers of using tobacco but also the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.

Facts about tobacco, heart and other cardiovascular diseases:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) kill more people than any other cause of death worldwide.
  • The use of tobacco and second-hand smoke exposure contribute to approximately 12% of all heart disease deaths.
  • Tobacco use is the second leading cause of CVD, after high blood pressure.
  • The global tobacco epidemic kills more than 7 million people each year, of which close to 900 000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.
  • Nearly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low- and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is the  heaviest.

About WHO MPOWER Measures:

The WHO MPOWER measures are in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and can be used by governments to reduce tobacco use and protect people from NCDs. These measures include:

  • Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies.
  • Protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke by creating completely smoke-free indoor public places, workplaces and public transport.
  • Offering help to quit tobacco (cost-covered, population-wide support, including brief advice by health care providers and national toll-free quit lines).
  • Warning about the dangers of tobacco by implementing plain/standardized packaging, and/or large graphic health warnings on all tobacco packages, and implementing effective anti-tobacco mass media campaigns that inform the public about the harms tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure.
  • Enforcing comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Raising taxes on tobacco products and make them less affordable.

About WHO:

  • World Health Organization (WHO) was created in 1948 by member states of the United Nations (UN) as a specialized agency with a broad mandate for international public health.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The main objective of WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible standard of health." It plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease.
  • Its mission is to improve people's lives, to reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to provide access to responsive health care for all people.
  • The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board.
  • The current Director-general of WHO is Tedros Adhanom.

 

World Milk Day 2021: The World Milk Day is observed every year on 1 June to recognize the importance of milk as a global food.

The main objective of this day is to focus on activities that are connected to the dairy sector.

History:

  • The World Milk Day was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in 2001.
  • The date, 1 June was chosen because many countries were observing the milk day during that time of the year.
  • Since then, the benefits of milk and dairy products have been active through campaigns, events, and programs across the world.

Theme:

  • The theme of World Milk Day 2021 is “sustainability in the dairy sector with messages on nutrition”.
  • Amid the pandemic, the theme focuses on sustainability in the dairy sector along with empowering the environment, nutrition, and socio-economic.
  • The objective is to spread the importance of milk and dairy products in the diet regularly.

Significance of World Milk Day 2021:

  • Despite being a great source of nutrition for millions of people, milk and dairy products are also a means of livelihood.
  • Looking into economical value and standards, the dairy products market is an important component of the global economy.

Significance of Dairy Sector in India:

  • The day also notifies special importance for India as it is one of the largest producers of milk across the world.
  • Dairy sector supports livelihoods of millions of people in the country.

Additional Info:

White Revolution in India:

  • White Revolution in India was started by Dr Verghese Kurein in 1970.
  • He is therefore known as “Father of the White Revolution” in India.
  • He is known for his efforts in turning India into largest producer from milk deficient country.
  • He led to establishment of institutions like Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd and National Dairy Development Board.
  • Both of these institutions played a significant role in shaping Dairy Cooperative movement.

Film Manthan:

  • Manthan was made with the efforts of Dr Kurien in 1976.
  • It was directed by Shyam Benegal while script of film was written by Dr Kurien and Vijay Tendulkar.
  • About 500,000 farmers donated ₹ 2 to produce Manthan. It traces the origins of largest dairy development programme of world.

 

World Bicycle Day: United Nations celebrates World Bicycle Day on 3rd June every year.

Highlights:

  • World Bicycle Day is observed to advance the use of the bicycle as a means of fostering sustainable development and also as cycling has tremendous health benefits for all age groups, according to experts.
  • The day aims to strengthen education for children and young people, preventing disease, promoting health, promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and facilitating social inclusion and a culture of peace.
  • It also aims to promote the bicycle among all members of society.
  • It is observed every year to encourage member nations to give particular attention to the bicycle in cross-cutting development strategies and to improve road safety and integrate it into sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure planning and design.

History:

  • The United Nations General Assembly declared June 3 every year as World Bicycle Day in April 2018. Leszek Sibilski's crusade and the support of Turkmenistan and 56 other countries to recognize World Bicycle Day resulted in the creation of the Day. Numerous activities are held across the world on this day, including at UCI's own World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle.

Benefits of Bicycling:

  • Bicycling is a simple, reliable, and environmentally beneficial way of transportation.
  • Bikes are free to ride and a stress-free mode of travel.
  • The bicycle can serve as a tool for personal development as well as a means of gaining access to education, health care, and sports.
  • The bicycle is a symbol of environmentally friendly transportation that also saves money on gas.
  • Bicycling contributes to mitigation of carbon dioxide emissions as it possesses an intrinsic zero-emission value.

Interesting facts about the bicycles:

  • The concept of the bicycle was laid down by Karl Drais in 1818.
  • But this bicycle was quite heavy.
  • In the year 1839, Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith by profession, introduced the pedals and the bicycle got its first and the most important feature.
  • In 1866, the first American patent application was filed by Pierre Lallement for the pedal bicycle.
  • Harry Lawson and English engineer designed the Safety Bicycle in 1876.
  • Since then, this is the most common bicycle option available.

 

Isaac Herzog: Veteran Israeli politician, Isaac Herzog, has been elected as the President of the country.

Highlights:

  • He was elected on June 01, 2021, during the 120 members parliamentary election for 2021.
  • The 60-year-old Herzog will be the 11th President of Israel, assuming office with effect from July 09, 2021.
  • He will be succeeding Reuven Rivlin, who is set to complete his tenure in July 2021 after seven years in office.

About Isaac Herzog:

  • He is a former Labor leader who will be the first Israeli President who is the son of a former president.
  • His father Chaim Herzog served as Israel’s Head of State between 1983 and 1993.
  • He is currently the head of the Jewish Agency – a nonprofit that works with the government to promote immigration to Israel.
  • He has served as a lawmaker in the Israeli Knesset between 2003 and 2018, also serving as minister with various portfolios.
  • His grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, was both the first chief rabbi of Ireland, for over a decade, and then Ashkenazi chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine from 1936 until 1959.
  • The President-elect began his political career as the Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister Ehud Barak between 1999 and 2000.

About Israel:

  • Israel formally known as the State of Israel is a country in Western Asia.
  • It is located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea.
  • It is regarded as the biblical Holy Land by Jews, Muslims and Christians.
  • Its most sacred sites are in Jerusalem which is also the Capital of Israel.
  • The currency used here is Israeli Shekel.
  • The current President and Prime Minister of Israel is Benjamin Netanyahu.

China's Family Planning Policy: China on 31 May 2021 relaxed its family planning policy, allowing couples to have up to three children.

Key Highlights:

  • The decision to increase the existing limit of two children was taken at a Politburo meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping.
  • The decision came after a Census, conducted every 10 years, showed that China’s population grew at its slowest rate in decades. In the last 10 years, the population rose by only 72 million, or 7.2 crore.
  • As per the decision, the policy change will come with "supportive measures, which will be conducive to improving China’s population structure, fulfilling the country's strategy of actively coping with an ageing population".

Background:

  • China implemented its one-child policy which had been imposed in the late 1970s to control a population explosion.
  • It was enforced in a variety of ways, including financially incentivizing families to have only one child, making contraception widely available, and imposing sanctions on those who violated the policy.
  • It was scrapped in 2016 to allow couples to have two children.
  • However, experts believed that the two-child policy did not have the effect needed to counter the ageing problem.

About China:

  • China, officially the People's Republic of China, is a country in East Asia.
  • It is governed by the Communist Party of China.
  • It is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army, the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and the second-largest defense budget.
  • The capital of China is Beijing.
  • The currency used here is Yuan (CNY) and Renminbi (RMB).
  • The Yuan is the unit of account of the country's economic and financial system while Renminbi is the official currency of China where it acts as a medium of exchange.
  • The current President of china is Xi Jinping.

 

International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression: The International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is observed globally on 4th June every year.

  • This day affirms the UN’s commitment to guard the rights of children.
  • It is sad reality that in some situations children are affected and violations that occur may be use of children in war, killing, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools etc.
  • This day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the planet who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.

Aim:

  • The main aim of celebrating today is to spread the notice about the pain and sufferings faced by the victims as children.
  • This day affirms the UN's commitment to protect the rights of children.
  • Its work is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.

History:

  • On August 19, 1982, during an emergency session on the question of Palestine, the UN General Assembly, appalled at the amount of innocent Palestinian and Lebanese child victims of Israel’s acts of aggression, decided to commemorate 4 June of every year because of the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.

BIMSTEC Day 2021: The 24th BIMSTEC (the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) day was recently celebrated on June 6, 2021.

It was on this day that BIMSTEC was established in 1997.

Highlights:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his warm greetings on the occasion of 24th BIMSTEC Day.
  • PM Modi acknowledged the progress made by the grouping on several fronts in recent years.
  • He stressed the need to continue to work together in the fight against the pandemic.
  • He also underlined the progress that has been made on several fronts including the finalization of the BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity and the text of the BIMSTEC Charter.

About BIMSTEC:

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization of seven nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • BIMSTEC was established to develop technological and economic cooperation in the Southeast Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
  • It also establishes relationship among SAARC and SEAN members.

History:

  • BIMSTEC was established as a grouping of four nations — India, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka — through the Bangkok Declaration on 6 June 1997.
  • It was expanded later to include three more countries — Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan.
  • On 31 July 2004, in the first Summit the grouping was renamed as BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

Aim:

  • BIMSTEC aims to harness shared and accelerated growth through mutual cooperation in different areas of common interests by mitigating the onslaught of globalization and by utilizing regional resources and geographical advantages.

Secretary General of the BIMSTEC:

  • The current Secretary General of the BIMSTEC is Ambassador Tenzin Lekphell from Bhutan.
  • The former Secretary General was Mr. Shahidul Islam from Bangladesh.
  • The First Secretary General was Mr. Sumith Nakandala from Sri Lanka.

World Food Safety Day 2021: The World Food Safety Day is celebrated on June 7 every year to mark the importance of clean and hygienic food.

The day aims to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

This year, i.e. on June 7, 2021, the global food safety watchdogs are especially highlighting the risks associated with harmful eating practices, in the backdrop of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, which is believed to have begun spreading among humans two years ago from a 'wet market' in China's Wuhan.

Theme of World Food Safety Day 2021:

  • The official theme for World Food Safety Day 2021 is “Safe food today for a healthier tomorrow”.
  • With this theme, the United Nations aims at creating a safe environment where people do not have to worry about the diseases caused by food.
  • They aim at spreading awareness on the topic so that proper measures are taken to provide the people with clean and uncontaminated food and water.
  • The UN believes that the goal can only be achieved when governments, consumers and producers join hands and work collaterally to free the world of foodborne diseases.

History:

  • The World Health Assembly (WHA) passed a resolution on August 3, 2020, to declare June 7 - the World Food Safety Day.
  • Under this programme, The World Health Organization (WHO) collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to celebrate World Food Safety Day on June 7, every year.
  • The organization believes that food safety subsequently affects national and global growth with a significant impact on the economy and well-being of the people.

5 reasons why food safety is critical:

  • Food security
  • Good health
  • Livelihoods of people globally
  • Economic development
  • Trade

Importance of Food Safety:

Since foodborne diseases are usually invisible to the eye and infectious or toxic in nature, Food safety has a critical role in assuring that food stays safe at every stage of the food chain - from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, all the way to preparation and consumption.

A key precaution is preventing contamination through bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances.

Ensuring food safety:

  • Raw food and vegetables must be washed thoroughly
  • Food must be cooked thoroughly
  • Food kept in utensils should be covered
  • Raw and cooked food must be kept separately
  • Food should be kept at safe temperatures
  • Clean water must be used for cooking  

Note: An estimated 420 000 people around the world die every year after eating contaminated food and children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year,” UN notes.

Minimum Global Corporate Tax: G7 (Group of seven) advanced economies recently signed a landmark deal on taxing multinational companies.

The meeting, hosted at an ornate 19th-century mansion near Buckingham Palace in central London, was the first time finance ministers have met face to face since the start of the pandemic.

Key Points:

  • The finance ministers of the world’s most advanced economies met in London and agreed to counter the tax avoidance through the measures in order to make firms pay in the nations where they do business.
  • As per the deal, minimum global tax rate would be at least 15%.
  • Companies will also have to pay more tax in the countries where they make sales.
  • The agreement will now be discussed in detail at a meeting of G20 financial ministers and central bank governors in July 2021.

Minimum Global Tax Rate:

  • Under new tax system, countries where big firms operate would get ‘right to tax’ at least 20% of profits.

Concerns:

  • Ireland with tax rate of 12.5 percent is opposing the deal arguing that it would be disruptive to its economic model.

What are the reasons for the proposal of the new system?

 

  • The old system of global taxation was being criticized over the years as it allowed big companies to save billions of dollars in tax bills by shifting their jurisdictions.
  • Major digital companies were making money in multiple countries and paying taxes only in home country.
  • Thus, this proposal was made which would impose an additional tax on several multinational companies and technology giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google to pay taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are sold irrespective of their physical presence there. The deal seeks to modernize century-old international tax code.
  • According to the Tax Justice Network report, the US Treasury loses nearly $50 billion a year to tax cheats with Germany and France also among the top losers.
  • India too faces annual tax loss due to corporate tax abuse which is estimated at over $10 billion.

Impact on India:

  • India is likely to benefit from global minimum 15% corporate tax rate deal because, effective domestic tax rate is above this threshold and it would continue to attract investment.

About G7:

  • The Group of Seven (G7) is an informal club of wealthy democracies consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • The organization was established on 25 March 1973.
  • The heads of government of the member states, as well as the representatives of the European Union, meet at the annual G7 Summit.
  • Russia joined in 1998, creating the "G8", but was excluded in 2014 for its takeover of Crimea.
  • The G7 leaders aim to address challenges affecting the growth of the world economy, like slowdowns in emerging markets and drops in price of oil.

Background:

  • The first six countries were the original members of the G6.
  • Its first summit was held at Rambouillet, France, in 1975.
  • Canada joined in 1976, making it the G7.

I-Familia: Interpol has recently launched a new global database named “I-Familia”.

I-Familia has been launched to identify missing persons through family DNA.

It will help the police to solve cases in member countries.

About I-Familia:

  • The first of its kind, I-Familia is a global database for identifying missing persons based on international DNA kinship matching.
  • Building on INTERPOL’s long-standing success in direct DNA matching, DNA profiles are submitted by INTERPOL’s 194 member countries to make links between missing persons and cases related to human remains.
  • Interpol applies cutting-edge scientific research using DNA samples from family members to identify missing persons or unidentified human when direct comparison is not possible.
  • I-Familia has three components:
  • A dedicated global database to host the DNA profiles provided by relatives, held separately from any criminal data.
  • DNA matching software called Bonaparte, developed by Dutch company Smart Research.
  • Interpretation guidelines developed by Interpol.

Aim:

  • The driving principle behind I-Familia is humanitarian.
  • Its aim is to reunite loved ones or to bring closure to cases and allow families to rebuild their lives.

About Interpol:

  • The International Police Organization is commonly known as Interpol.
  • It is ‘NOT’ a unit or part of united nation system. It is an independent international organization.
  • It is an international organization facilitating international police cooperation against cross-border terrorism, trafficking, and other crime.
  • It was founded in 1923.
  • It is headquartered in Lyon in France.
  • INTERPOL has 194 member countries, making us the world's largest police organization. State of Palestine is its member.
  • All decisions regarding the activities of INTERPOL are made by the General Assembly which is its supreme governing body which meets annually.

Note:

  • Each country hosts an INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB), which links national police with our global network.
  • In India, CBI is the NCB.

Interpol notices:

  • These are international alert/requests circulated by Interpol allowing police in member countries to share critical crime-related information.
  • There are eight types of notices, seven of which are colour-coded by their function.
  • An eighth Special Notice is issued at the request of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

China Tech Threat: The U.S. Senate voted 68-32 on 8th June 2021 to approve a sweeping package of legislation intended to boost the country's ability to compete with Chinese technology.

China responded to the vote by saying that it objected to being cast as an "imaginary" U.S. enemy.

The bill must pass the House of Representatives to be sent to the White House for Mr Biden to sign into law.

Key Points:

  • This measure approved about $190 billion for provisions of strengthening technology and research in United States.
  • $54 billion was approved to increase US production & research into semiconductors & telecommunications equipment.
  • $2 billion were dedicated to chips used by automakers.

Provisions of the bill:

  • The Bill comprises of a number of China-related provisions.
  • Prohibiting social media app TikTok from being downloaded on government devices.
  • Blocking purchase of drones manufactured and sold by companies backed by Chinese government.
  • Allowing diplomats & Taiwanese military to display their flag and wear their uniforms while in United States on official businesses.
  • Creating broad new sanctions on Chinese entities engaged in U.S. cyberattacks or theft of U.S. intellectual property from U.S. firms.
  • Providing for review of export controls on items which could be support human rights abuses.
  • The bill also seeks to counter Beijing’s growing global influence through diplomacy, by working with allies and increasing U.S. involvement in international organizations after Republican former President Donald Trump's "America First" agenda.

EAGLE Act of 2021: Democrat Representative Zoe Lofgren and Republican John Curtis, introduced the Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2021 in the House of Representatives.

A new legislation that aims to remove the country cap for permanent residency visas has been introduced in the US House of Representatives.

What does EAGLE Act say?

The bipartisan act seeks to remove the 7% per-country limit on employment-based immigrant visas.

The per-country limit on family-sponsored visas will also be raised from 7% to 15% under this act.

It provides for a nine-year period for the elimination of this limit.

The 7% limit was introduced in the mid-20th century, which has led countries with relatively small populations to be allocated the same number of visas as a relatively large-population country.

Significance:

It will “benefit the US economy by allowing American employers to focus on hiring immigrants based on their merit, not their birthplace”.

It ensures that "no country may receive more than 25 percent of reserved visa and 85 percent of unreserved visas" in the nine fiscal years.

Benefits of Eagle Act for Indians:

A large proportion of employment‐based visa backlogs comprises Indians.

The bill will be advantageous for Indian job-seekers who currently rely on temporary visas or await green cards to work in the US.

The new law could potentially help Indians who are not able to get green cards due to the country caps and the lottery system in the US.

The think-thank Cato Institute, in March 2020, had reported that 75 per cent of the backlog for employment‐based visas was made up of Indians.

Backlogged Indian workers face an impossible wait of nine decades if they all could remain in the line.

It implies that more than 200,000 petitions filed for Indians could expire as a result of the workers dying of old age before they receive green cards.

New Atlantic Charter: The New Atlantic Charter is an agreement that was signed by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson and the President of the United States Joe Biden on 10 June 2021 at 2021 G7 summit in England.

Highlights:

  • The agreement was signed at the first face-to-face meeting between Johnson and Biden at the 2021 G7 Summit in Cornwall, England.
  • It is a new version of the Atlantic Charter of 1941.

About Atlantic Charter of 1941:

  • Atlantic Charter is a declaration signed in August 1941 (after the end of second world war) by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • Charter sets out common goals like free trade, disarmament & right to self-determination of all people.
  • It is often called as a cornerstone of trans-Atlantic special relationship.
  • This charter led to dismantling of British Empire and formation of NATO & General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

 Objectives of New Atlantic Charter:

  • New Atlantic Charter was signed with the objective of defending principles & institutions of democracy and strengthening & adapting the institutions.
  • This agreement seeks to remain united behind principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity & peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • It will also try to maintain collective security & international stability even against cyber threats.  
  • It prioritizes climate change across all international action.

About United Kingdom:

  • The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK or U.K.) or Britain,is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland.
  • The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands.
  • It consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, The North Sea, and the Irish Sea.
  • The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.
  • The monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world's longest-serving current head of state.
  • The capital of the United Kingdom is London.
  • The currency used here is Pound sterling.
  • The current Prime Minister of UK is Boris Johnson.

About USA:

  • The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.
  • The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean.
  • The currency used in USA is United States dollar - USD also abbreviated US$.
  • The capital of US is Washington, D.C.
  • The current President of US is Joe Biden

International Current Affairs - May 2021

11th session of Petersberg Climate Dialogue: India, recently, attended the first ever virtual 11th session of Petersberg Climate Dialogue. India was represented by the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate change, Prakash Javadekar. The dialogue was hosted by Germany and was co-chaired by the United Kingdom.  Over 30 countries participated in the dialogue.

The Dialogue was held via video conferencing. The measures to tackle COVID-19, save lives and to overcome social and economic consequences of the disease was discussed at the Dialogue. In this dialogue, India suggested having a Climate Technology that is open to everyone at an affordable cost. The minister also suggested that a plan for 1 trillion USD in grants to be created to develop the world immediately.

BRICS: It is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies which are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as "BRIC", before the induction of South Africa in 2010. It was founded in 2006 and BRICS was formed in 2009. BRICS headquarter is situated at Shanghai, China. All the five BRICS members are the members of G20.

Recently, the BRICS Foreign ministers to attend COVID-19 meeting which is to be held on 28 April 2020. The meeting, to be held by the rotating chair Russia, will be convened via video conference. The event will be chaired by Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister. Union Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar will join his counterparts from the BRICS.

The ministers will discuss possible joint measures to fight against the dangerous, highly contagious and fast spreading COVID-19.

International Labour Day: International Labour Day also known as the International Workers' Day in some countries is also referred to as May Day. It is observed globally on 1 May every year. The Labour Day is celebrated to commemorate the happenings of May 4, 1886, the Haymarket affair (Haymarket Massacre) in the Chicago. During the era of industrialization, US industrialists exploited the working class by making them work 15 hours a day. It was only on May 1, 1886, that the labour class came together and revolted against this unjust system and asked for paid leaves, good wages and proper breaks.

The first May Day celebrations focused on workers took place on 1st May 1890 after its proclamation by the first international congress of socialist parties in Europe on July 14th 1889 in Paris, France, to dedicate 1st May every year as the "Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity." The day is celebrated by the working classes and is promoted by the international labour movement, socialists and communists. This day is a national holiday for over 90 countries, including North Korea.

In India, the first celebration of the Labour Day was organised in Madras (now Chennai) by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on1  May 1923. Labour Day is known as 'Kamgar Din' in Hindi, 'Kamgar Divas' in Marathi and 'Uzhaipalar Naal' in Tamil. It was also the first time when the Red Flag which symbolises Labour Day was used in India. The day is linked to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties.

The 2020 International Labour Day is being celebrated across the globe amid the Coronavirus pandemic. This pandemic has led to thousands of workers and labourers jobless due to economic concerns.

Iran: Iran also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan,to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. The capital of Iran is Tehran. The currency used there is Iranian Rial. The current President of Iran is Hassan Rouhani.

Recently, the Iranian Parliament introduced new currency called Toman, to tackle inflation. It will replace its national currency "Rial". The plan is set to effectively cut four zeros from its currency. The worth of each Toman under the new system will be worth 10,000 rials. The move by the Iranian government aims to simplify financial transactions. The Guardian Council, a body of conservative clerics that supervises Parliament, is expected to ratify the law. Once the law is ratified, then the Central Bank will have two years to implement the change by removing rials from circulation and issuing tomans instead. Iran’s move is to tackle the fallout from inflation fueled by U.S. sanctions.

Earlier, in 1930, Iran had changed its basic monetary unit from dinar to the rial. The change was a part of the modernization of the economy undertaken by the Pahlavi dynasty. The Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown by the revolution in 1979. The Iranian government has been planning to replace currency notes since 2016.

Iraq: It is officially the Republic of Iraq. It is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital city of Iraq is Baghdad. The currency used her is Iraqui Dinar. The current President or Iraq is Barham Salih.

Recently, Mustafa Al Kadhimi has become the new Prime Minister of Iraq. He is a former National Intelligence Service (NIS) from 2016 of Iraq. The Iraqi parliament approved Kadhimi’s government at an emergency session. Former PM Adil-Abdul Mahdi resigned in November last year.

International Nurse Day: This day is observed globally on 12th May every year. It is observed to commemorate the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale who was also called the Lady with the Lamp. International Nurses Day was initiated by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in 1974. She is revered as the founder of modern nursing. 

Recently, International Nurse Day 2020 was observed globally amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. The theme for 2020 is “Nursing the World to Health”. The main objective of the theme is not only to demonstrate how nurses play a crucial role in contributing to healthcare and health management but to spread public awareness of their contribution. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the year 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife as it is the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nigntingale: She was a British social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She was called the “Lady with the Lamp”. She was given this name by the wounded soldiers because she used to make rounds through the camps with a lamp. She played a significant role in treating the injured soldiers during the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856. She was born on 12 May 1820 to a wealthy English family in Florence, Tuscany, Italy. She established St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in 1860 which was the first nursing institute for women.

ICN: It refers to the International Council of Nurses. ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations. It is operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally. It works to ensure quality nursing care for all and sound health policies globally. It was founded in 1899. It was the first international organization for health care professionals. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is associated with the World Bank, International Labour Organization and World Health Organization. The current President of ICN is Annette Kennedy.

Hanko: The Hanko is a personal stamp of Japan. It is equivalent to a signature in other countries, and is an essential part of several transactions. It is small-sized and circular or square-shaped and is generally made of wood or plasic. The stamp is wet by an ink pad called ‘shuniku’, and the mark that it leaves on a document is called ‘inkan’. Hanko stamping is essential in Japan for several transactions. They are mandatory in bank documents, government authorization and even in several day to day activities. The use of Hanko is a two millennium old tradition. Hanko stamp is still used in Japan.

Recently, Hanko tradition has come under fierce critisism due to the rise in number of COVID 19 cases in the country. This is because, even though Japan is adopting work from home culture aggressively in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but the extensive and almost unavoidable use of the ‘Hanko’ for authorizing official documents ranging from contracts, marriage registrations and even delivery slips is forcing the employees to go to the office premises for security reasons. So the industry leaders demanding that the tradition be abandoned.

WHA: It refers to the World Health Assembly. WHA is the forum through which the World Health Organization (WHO) is governed by its 194 member states. It is the world's highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states. It was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The members of the WHA generally meet every year in May in Geneva at the Palace of Nations. The Assembly is governed by Rules of Procedure of the World Health Assembly. The agenda items are set by the General Committee of the Assembly which is a group of 25 individuals that includes the President and subcommittee chairs, and a number of delegates elected by the Assembly previous. The main functions of the WHA are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.

Recently, the Union Minister of Health Dr. Harsh Vardhan participated in the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) amid the COVID-19 crisis. The meeting was held through Video Conference. At the assembly India along with more than 100 countries unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the European Union to conduct an independent probe of WHO's COVID-19 response. The pandemic has claimed more than 3 lakh lives globally so far.

Lesotho: Lesotho is a high-altitude, landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa. It was previously the British Crown Colony of Basutoland, but it declared independence from the United Kingdom on 4 October 1966. The country was formerly known as Basutoland but was renamed to the Kingdom of Lesotho after its independence. It is now a democratic, sovereign and independent country. It is a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the African Union, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  Maseru is the capital city of Lisotho. The currency used her is  Lesotho loti.

Recently, the Prime Minister of Lisotho Thomas Thabane formally resigned from the post. He faced pressure to quit over case in which he and wife are suspected of involvement in 2017 murder of previous wife.

The Finance Minister of Lisotho Moeketsi Majoro has been named as the interim PM of the country by the parliament.

USA: It refers to the United States of America. USA commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. The capital of US is Washington, D.C. The current President of US is Donald Trump.

Recently, the President of United States of America Donald Trump announced that USA will withdraw from Open Skies treaty which allows member countries to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over 35 participating states. The US officials said that the country was withdrawing due to repeated Russian violations of its terms. This is the 3rd international arms pact from wich President Donald Trump has withdrawn from. The previously two treaties from which the US withdrew itself are 2015 nuclear agreement to prevent Iran from conducting its nuclear activities and the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

The Open Skies Treaty: The Open Skies Treaty came into force on 1 January 2002 and and currently has 35 signatories including Russia, the US, the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. It allows for unarmed short-notice reconnaissance flights by specially equipped aircraft, over the entire territory of another country to collect data on troop deployments, military facilities and so on. The Open Skies Treaty permits each state-party to conduct short-notice, unarmed, reconnaissance flights over the others' entire territories to collect data on military forces and activities. The treaty was signed as an initiative of U.S. president (and former Central Intelligence Agency Director) George H. W. Bush in 1989. Negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the agreement was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on 24 March 1992. However, this treaty is not related to civil-aviation open skies agreements.

ITD: It refers to the International Tea Day. ITD is observed annually on May 21 to create awareness about the significance of tea around the world, in terms of economy and culture. The concerning resolution was adopted on December 21, 2019 and calls on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to lead the observance of the Day. Earlier, this day was celebrated on December 15 Every Year but on the recommendation of India ITD is celebrated on 21 May. The Day aims to raise awareness of the long history and the deep cultural and economic significance of tea around the world. The main objective of celebrating this day is not only to boost its production and consumption but also help in fighting hunger and poverty in rural areas.

Tea: Tea is a beverage made from the Camellia sinesis plant. It is the world’s most consumed drink, after water. The history of tea dates back to ancient China, almost 5,000 years ago. According to legend, in 2732 B.C. Emperor Shen Nung discovered tea when leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot of boiling water. He was immediately interested in the pleasant scent of the resulting brew, and drank some. It is believed that tea originated in northeast India, north Myanmar and southwest China, but the exact place where the plant first grew is not known. Tea in Southwest China during the Shang dynasty was used as a medicinal drink.

Russia has recently registered the first animal vaccine against the novel coronavirus in the world. It was announced by the country’s agriculture safety watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor.

Main Points:

  • The world’s first animal vaccine against the novel coronavirus has been named as Carnivac-Cov.
  • As per the Rosselkhoznadzor, the immunity will last for 6 months after the vaccination. However, the developers of the dose are continuously analyzing this.
  • The mass production of the Covid-19 vaccine is expected to start as early as April 2021.
  • As per Russian scientists, the use of this vaccine can prevent the development of virus mutations in animals.

About Carnivac-Cov

  • Carnivac-Cov vaccine for animals has been developed by a unit of Rosselkhoznadzor (Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance).
  • The clinical trials of Carnivac-Cov began in October 2020 and the trials included cats, minks, dogs, foxes, Arctic foxes, and other animals.
  • This vaccine is the world’s first and only product for preventing Covid-19 in animals.
  • The results of the trials showed that the vaccine is harmless and highly immunogenic as all the vaccinated animals developed antibodies to the coronavirus in 100% of cases.

Covid-19 Cases in Russia

  • Coronavirus cases in Russia rose by 8,711 to 4,528,543 on 29 March. 
  • Russia already has 3 Covid-19 vaccines for humans to deal with the pandemic.
  • The most popular vaccine used for humans is Sputnik V.
  • Moscow has also given emergency approval to two others, CoviVac and EpiVacCorona.

China recently proposed a set of global rules for central bank digital currencies from how they can be used around the world to highly sensitive issues such as monitoring and information sharing.

  • The PBOC (People's Bank of China) is aiming to become the first major central bank to issue a CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currencies), part of its push to internationalize the yuan and reduce dependence on the dollar-dominated payment system.

Background:

  • China in February 2021 launched the latest round of pilot trials of its new digital currency, with reported plans of a major roll-out by the end of the year and ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February 2022.

About RMB:

  • Officially titled the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP), the digital RMB (or Renminbi, China’s currency) is, as its name suggests, a digital version of China’s currency.
  • It can be downloaded and exchanged via an application authorised by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank.
  • China is among a small group of countries that have begun pilot trials; others include Sweden, South Korea and Thailand.

Significance:

  • While several countries have been experimenting with digital currencies, China’s recent trials in several cities have placed it ahead of the curve.
  • The central bank-issued digital RMB will turn the logic of decentralized crypto currencies on its head, without the privacy and anonymity they offer, by giving regulators complete control over transactions. There are global motivations as well.

How is it different from an e-wallet?

  • Unlike an e-wallet such as Paytm in India, or Alipay or WeChat Pay, which are the two dominant apps in China, the Digital RMB does not involve a third party. For users, the experience may broadly feel the same.
  • But from a “legal perspective”, the digital currency is “very, very different”. This is legal tender guaranteed by the central bank, not a payment guaranteed by a third-party operator. There is no third-party transaction, and hence, no transaction fee.
  • Unlike e-wallets, the digital currency does not require Internet connectivity. The payment is made through Near-field Communication (NFC) technology.
  • Also, unlike non-bank payment platforms that require users to link bank accounts, this can be opened with a personal identification number.

World Health Day:

The World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO).

World Health Day 2021:

  • World Health Day being celebrated on April 07, 2021.
  • The theme of this year is Building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.

History:

  • World Health Day is celebrated to highlight the importance of physical and mental well being among people.
  • World Health Day was originally conceptualized at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and became official in 1950.
  • Since 1950, the World Health Day is held annually on April 7.
  • The date of April 7 marks the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948.
  • Every year, the WHO decides on a new theme for World Health Day to highlight specific issues related to the health and welfare of the people.

World Homoeopathy Day (WHD):

World Homeopathy Day is observed on 10 April every year to commemorate the birth anniversary of the founder of Homoeopathy, Dr. Christian Fredrich Samuel Hahnemann.

The day aims to create awareness about homoeopathy and its contribution to the world of medicine.

Highlights:

  • The year 2021, commemorates the 266th birth anniversary of the founder of Homoeopathy.
  • The Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH), Ministry of AYUSH, organised a two day scientific conference on the occasion of #WorldHomoeopathyDay from April 10 & 11, 2021 in New Delhi.
  • The theme of the conference is “Homoeopathy – Roadmap for Integrative Medicine”
  • Purpose: To identify and propose strategic actions towards an effective and efficient inclusion of Homoeopathy in integrative care.
  • A unique digital initiative of CCRH, the Homoeopathic Clinical Case Repository (HCCR) portal aimed at providing homoeopathic clinicians, researchers, medical students etc. a user platform for entering homoeopathic clinical cases through a predefined standardized template was launched on the occasion.

About CCRH:

  • The Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) is an apex research organization under Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India.
  • CCRH was formally constituted on 30th March, 1978, was set up as an autonomous organization and registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI, 1860.
  • CCRH undertakes, coordinates, develops, disseminates and promotes scientific research in Homoeopathy.
  • The Headquarters of the Council are situated in New Delhi.
  • Multi-centric research is conducted through a network of 23 institutes/units all over India.

About Samuel Hahnemann:

  • Samuel Hahnemann was born on 10 April 1755 in Paris, France.
  • He was a German physician, a great scholar, a linguist, and an acclaimed scientist.
  • He was famously known as the Father of Homeopathy, Father of Human Pharmacology, Father of NanoMedicine and the Father of Infinite Dilution concept in Chemistry.
  • He invented the term "Homeopathy".
  • He discovered the way to heal through the use of homeopathy.
  • He died on 2 July 1843.

About Homeopathy:

  • Homeopathy is a system of medicine that follows a natural approach to the treatment of the sick. This type of medical system is based on the belief that the body can cure itself.
  • Homeopathy uses animal, plant, mineral, and synthetic substances in its preparations and labels them in Latin or faux-Latin vocabulary. It is the world's second most widely used system of treatment.

Vladimir Putin:

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed the legislation that may be able to keep him in power until 2036, when he will be 83 years old.

Key highlights:

  • Putin is a former KGB officer.
  • He is now 68 who will be completing his ongoing six-year tenure as the fourth as President in 2024.
  • He has already run the country either as President or as Prime Minister for more than 20 years.
  • This is the longest period a leader has been in power since Joseph Stalin, who was Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922-1953) and the premier of the Soviet Union from 1941-1953.
  • Some critics have likened Putin’s move to a power grab while others have called them a “constitutional coup”.

What has changed?

  • The law signed by Putin limits any future president to two terms in office, but resets his term count.
  • It prevents anyone who has held foreign citizenship from running for the Kremlin.
  • These will be “zeroed out”, giving him the option of serving two more consecutive terms after the current one ends in 2024.

The legislation was passed in the lower and upper houses of parliament last month.

The example of US President Franklin D Roosevelt given by Putin:

  • Putin cited the example of US President Franklin D Roosevelt, who served four terms — starting 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944.
  • Roosevelt’s four-term presidency paved the way for the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1951, which limited the Presidential term to two four-year terms.
  • Putin said Roosevelt had to serve four terms because of the problems the US was facing at the time (Great Depression, World War II) and that, therefore, putting limits on Presidential terms was sometimes superfluous.

Vietnam National Assembly:

Vietnam’s legislature voted recently to make Pham Minh Chinh the country’s next Prime Minister.

  • Pham Minh Chinh is a member of the Communist party with a history as a security official.
  • Outgoing Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was appointed the new President.
  • The votes of the nearly 500 members of the National Assembly rubber-stamped the leadership picks the Communist party made during its national congress in January.

About Vietnam:

  • Vietnam officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is a country in Southeast Asia.
  • Vietnam shares borders China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west; while maintaining maritime borders with Thailand through the Gulf of Thailand, and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia through the South China Sea.
  • Its capital is Hanoi.
  • The currency used here is Vietnamese dong.

Vjosa Osmani:

The parliament of Kosovo has recently elected Vjosa Osmani as the country’s new president.

  • Osmani received 71 votes from the lawmakers at the third round of voting in the Assembly of Kosovo.
  • While 82 deputies participated in the vote in the 120-member parliament, 11 votes were declared invalid.
  • The 38-year-old politician studied law at the University of Pristina in Kosovo and earned a doctorate from Pittsburgh University in the US.

About Kosovo:

  • Kosovo, officially the Republic of Kosovo, is a partially recognised state in Southeastern Europe.
  • It is bordered by the uncontested territory of Serbia to the north and east, North Macedonia to the southeast, Albania to the southwest, and Montenegro to the west.
  • Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008.
  • It has since then gained diplomatic recognition as a sovereign state by 98 member states of the United Nations.
  • The Capital of Kosovo is Pristina.
  • The currency used here is Euro.

Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou:

Niger President Mohamed Bazoum recently appointed Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou to head his new cabinet as the country’s new prime minister.

  • He was previously served as a minister in charge of the finance and mining portfolios.
  • He was the chief of staff to former President Mahamadou Issoufou between 2015 and 2021.
  • He was sworn as Niger’s first democratic transition of power since independence in 1960.

Niger:

  • Niger or the Niger, officially the Republic of the Niger, is a landlocked country in West Africa.
  • It got its name after the Niger River. The country has some of the world's largest uranium deposits.
  • The capital of Niger is Niamey.
  • The currency used here is West African CFA franc.
  • The current President of Niger is Mohamed Bazoum

Cuba: Raul Castro recently confirmed that he is resigning as head of Cuba's Communist Party, ending an era of formal leadership by him and his brother Fidel Castro that began with the 1959 revolution.

  • He has already handed over the presidency in 2018 to protege Miguel Diaz-Canel, 60, who ran the party in two provinces before joining the national government.

About Cuba:

  • Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos.
  • It is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet. 
  • Havana is Cuba's largest city as well as  capital.
  • The currencies used here are Cuban peso, Cuban convertible peso.

History of Cuba:

  • From the 15th century, Cuba was a colony of Spain until the Spanish–American War of 1898, when Cuba was occupied by the United States and gained nominal independence as a de facto United States protectorate in 1902.
  • In 1940, Cuba attempted to strengthen its democratic system, but mounting political radicalization and social strife culminated in a coup and subsequent dictatorship under Fulgencio Batista in 1952.
  • Open corruption and oppression under Batista's rule led to his ousting in January 1959 by the 26th of July Movement, which afterwards established communist rule under the leadership of Fidel Castro.
  • Since 1965, the state has been governed by the Communist Party of Cuba.
  • The country was a point of contention during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, and a nuclear war nearly broke out during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Ponzi scheme: Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street financier who was sentenced to 150 years after being convicted for what came to be known as the largest and most devastating Ponzi scheme in financial history recently died in the US.

What is Ponzi scheme?

  1. A Ponzi scheme is a form of fraud that lures investors and pays profits to earlier investors with funds from more recent investors.
  2. The scheme leads victims to believe that profits are coming from legitimate business activity (e.g. product sales and/or successful investments), and they remain unaware that other investors are the source of funds.
  3. Ponzi schemes rely on a constant flow of new investments to continue to provide returns to older investors. When this flow runs out, the scheme falls apart.
  4. The term “Ponzi Scheme” was coined after a swindler named Charles Ponzi in 1919.
  5. However, the first recorded instances of this sort of investment scam can be traced back to the mid-to-late 1800s.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have recently launched the construction of an international center for trade and economic cooperation called “Central Asia”.

  1. The Central Asia Trade center has been launched on the borders of the two countries.

About the center:

  1. The center is located near the border check post of Gisht Kuprik.
  2. The Center is to be constructed in an area of 400 hectares of land.
  3. It will have a capacity to accommodate 35,000 people and five thousand trucks.
  4. After completion, the center will become a large trade and industrial platform to implement joint projects of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Note:Kazakhstan is the third largest trade partner of Uzbekistan after Russia and China.

India-Uzbekistan:

  1. Uzbekistan holds one of the largest Uranium reserves in the world.
  2. In 2019, India and Uzbekistan signed a Nuclear Agreement.
  3. Under the agreement, Uzbekistan agreed to export 2,000 tonnes of Uranium to India.
  4. Uzbekistan supports permanent membership of India in the United Nations Security Council.
  5. The countries had set a bilateral trade target of 1 billion USD by 2020.

India-Central Asia:

  1. Central Asia is highly important to India as it serves as a land bridge between Asia and Europe.
  2. India is to use the Chabahar port as a gateway to access the Eurasian markets.
  3. The development of International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) will also help India increase its trade with Central Asia.

International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC):

  1. It is a multi-modal transportation that was established in 2000 in St Petersburg by India, Iran, and Russia.
  2. It mainly aims to promote transport of freight.
  3. At the Maritime India Summit that was held in March 2021, India proposed to include Chabahar port in the INSTC project.

WHO Guidelines on Zoonosis: The World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Organization for Animal Health recently laid down fresh guidelines to reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic pathogens to humans in food production.

The guidelines on Zoonosis are as follows :

  1. Suspension of trade in live caught wild animals of mammalian species for food or breeding.
  2. To shut down food markets that sell wild animals of mammalian species.
  3. To strengthen standards of hygiene, sanitation in traditional food markets to reduce the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases.
  4. To conduct risk assessment. They will provide evidence based developing regulations to control the risks of transmission of zoonotic microorganisms.
  5. To strengthen animal health surveillance systems.
  6. To develop and implement food safety information campaigns for stall holders, market traders, consumers and wide general public.

What is Zoonosis?

  1. Zoonosis is an infectious disease that transfers from non-human animals to humans. These pathogens may be viral, bacterial or parasitic.
  2. They spread to humans through direct contact, water, food and environment.

About One-Health:

  1. The guidelines issued were in line with the concept of “One Health”.
  2. This term was first used in 2003-2004.
  3. It was associated with the emergence of SARS and Avian Influenza H5N1.
  4. SARS is Severe Acute Respiratory Disease. According to One-Health, the health of human beings is associated with the health of environment and animals.

Zoonotic Diseases

  1. Some of the modern-day Zoonotic diseases are Ebola, Salmonellosis.
  2. HIV was a zoonotic disease that transmitted to humans from animals.
  3. However, it has now mutated to human-only disease.
  4. Influenza, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Spanish flu are all zoonotic diseases.

Earth Day Summit: On March 22, 2021, US President Joe Biden kick started a two-day Earth Day Summit.

  • Joe Biden unveiled the goal to cut emissions by 50 per cent-52 per cent from 2005 levels at the start of a two-day climate
  • The summit witnessed the participation by leaders of 40 countries including big emitters like China, India and Russia.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi participated in the “Leaders’ Summit on Climate”.
  • The two-day conference has been organized virtually on 22-23 April 2021, which coincides with the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Paris Agreement on climate change for signature.

About the summit:

  • The theme of the summit: Our Collective Sprint to 2030.
  • The Summit is being held in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will take place in November 2021 in Glasglow.

Highlights of the Summit:

  • The United States (US) and the other countries increased their targets of reducing the Greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The US President Joe Biden unveiled a 2 trillion USD infrastructure package which included several elements of climate friendly policies, investment in electric grid, development funds for clean energy.
  • During the summit, around 101 Nobel Laureates made a call to sign up a “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty”. They submitted a letter that called to phase out fossil fuels. The Buddhist leader Dalai Lama was one of the signatories of the letter.
  • Other leaders too announced their commitments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the summit.
  • World leaders aim to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a threshold scientists say can prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP): Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, recently launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty.

About the program

  • The AUD 1.4 million (Rs 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific.
  • The AIIPOIP will help shape maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to support an open, inclusive, resilient, prosperous and rules-based maritime order.
  • The programme is a practical initiative under the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, as part of the Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership announced during the Leaders’ Virtual Summit on 4 June 2020.
  • India and Australia are committed to work together bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally, and in minilateral arrangements, to support regional architecture in line with their shared values and interests.
  • The AIIPOIP will help develop, with all interested partners, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) announced by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit on 4 November 2019 at Bangkok.
  • This is the first phase of the four-year (2020-2024) grant program under this Partnership.

About the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI)

  • The IPOI was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the East Asia Summit.
  • IPOI seeks to ensure security and stability of the regional maritime domain.
  • IPOI is an open, non-treaty based initiative for countries to work together for cooperative and collaborative solutions to common challenges in the region.
  • IPOI draws on existing regional architecture and mechanisms to focus on seven pillars:
  1. Maritime Security
  2. Maritime Ecology
  3. Maritime Resources
  4. Capacity Building and Resource Sharing
  5. Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
  6. Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation
  7. Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport

Australia is the lead partner on the maritime ecology pillar and is looking to drive scientific collaboration and share best practice across the Indo-Pacific on reducing marine pollution, with a focus on plastic waste.

World Earth Day: Earth Day is an annual event observed on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day is dedicated to the bountiful Mother Nature and with each passing year, as the world battles a climate crisis, Earth Day is gaining significance.

  • The first World Earth Day was celebrated in April 22, 1970.
  • The World Earth Day celebrations are organised by Earth Society Foundation. It was founded by John McConnel.

History

  • In 1969, at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, Peace Activist John McConnell proposed to celebrate World Earth Day to honour the earth. It was first proposed to be celebrated on March 21, 1970, which is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Paris Agreement

  • On the World Earth Day, in 2016, the landmark Paris Agreement was signed by China, United States and other 120 countries.

Note: On Earth Day 2020, over 100 million people around the world observed the 50th anniversary in what is being referred to as the largest online mass mobilization in history.

World Earth Day 2021

This year, in 2021, the World Earth Day is celebrated under the following the theme: Restore our Earth

Amid the pandemic, a host of environmental issues are being prioritized. According to the earthday.org, the topics that will take centre stage at the digital event are:

  1. Climate and environmental literacy
  2. Climate restoration technologies
  3. Equity and environmental justice
  4. Citizen science
  5. Reforestation efforts
  6. Regenerative agriculture
  1. Cleanups

World Book and Copyright Day 2021: Every year the World Book and Copyrights Day is celebrated on April 23 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The Day is celebrated to recognize and promote the benefit of reading books, publishing and copyright. This year will be the 25th edition of World Book Day.

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day, or International Day of the Book, is an annual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to promote reading, publishing, and copyright.

World Book Day 2021: Theme

This year, to celebrate the World Book and Copyright Day, UNESCO has created “Bookface Challenge”.

Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry -- publishers, booksellers, and libraries -- select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, through its own initiatives, the impetus of the Day’s celebrations, effective April 23 each year.

The UNESCO Prize for Children’s and Young People’s Literature in the Service of Tolerance is awarded on this day. Also, the day seeks to increase the understanding of copyright laws and other measures that protect intellectual properties.

World Book Capital

As per UNESCO, the city of Tbilisi in Georgia was selected as the World Book Capital for 2021.

History

In 1995, UNESCO decided to celebrate April 23 as World Book Day or World Book and Copyright Day, and since then, the date has prominence in the history of literature.

Why was April 23rd chosen as World Book Day?

April 23 was chosen as World Book Day because this day marks the death and birth anniversary of many other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

World Book Day in different regions is celebrated as follows:

  • In Spain, the World Book Day is being celebrated since 1926 on October 7 because Miguel de Cervantes was born on this day.
  • In Catalonia (Spain), the World Book Day is celebrated as St George’s Day since 1436. On this day, people exchange gifts between loved ones. Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain.
  • In Sweden, the World Book Day is called the Varldsbokdagen. It is celebrated on April 13.
  • In UK and Ireland, they organise an event called the “World Book Night” to celebrate the World Book Day.
  • The World Book Day is celebrated as a street festival in the US.

Idriss Deby Itno: The President of the Republic of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno recently  passed away. Idriss Deby Itno died from wounds sustained in battle after three decades in power, the Army said, opening a period of uncertainty in a country that is a key strategic ally of the West.

About:

  • He had ruled the central African nation for more than three decades and was even declared winner of the 2021 presidential election, paving the way for him to stay in power for six more years.
  • Deby first won elections in 1996 and 2001. After this, he continued to win in 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021.
  • He was killed in April 2021 while commanding forces fighting on the front against rebels from the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT).
  • The Transitional Military Council, led by interim president Mahamat Idriss Déby, son of the late president, has assumed control of government.

About FACT:

  • FACT was formed in 2016.
  • A group of rebels split from the UFDD after a violent clash and formed FACT. UFDD is Union of Forces for Democracy and Development. UFDD is the largest group of Chadian rebel forces that operated against the former President Idriss Deby. The leader of UFDD is Mahamat Nouri.
  • FACT is run by Mahdi Ali Mahamat. He spent some time in exile in France and returned to Libya in 2015.
  • The founder of FACT is Jerome Tubiana.
  • The group has been fighting to overthrow Deby from power. According to them, Deby’s victory in the elections held in 2016 and 2021 was fraudulent.
  • FACT has deployed more than 400-450 vehicles into Chad that carried thousands of fighters.

About Chad

  • Chad is a landlocked country in north-central Africa.
  • It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon to the south-west, Nigeria to the southwest (at Lake Chad), and Niger to the west.
  • Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the second-largest wetland in Africa.
  • The capital N'Djamena is the largest city.
  • The currency used here is Central African CFA franc.

New Zealand: New Zealand has become the first country to introduce a law that will require banks, insurers and investment managers to report the impacts of climate change on their business.

  • Aim:
  • The aim is to bring the financial sector on board with the efforts being made towards achieving the country’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
  • Background:
  • The New Zealand government first revealed its plans to compel the financial sector to make disclosures in September last year, informing that those unable to disclose would have to give explanations.

About New Zealand:

  • New Zealand, Maori Aotearoa, is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
  • It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island  and the South Island and more than 700 smaller islands.
  • New Zealand's capital city is Wellington.
  • New Zealand administers the South Pacific island group of Tokelau and claims a section of the Antarctic continent.
  • New Zealand is famous for its national rugby team, its indigenous Maori culture and its picturesque landscape.
  • The currency used here is New Zealand dollar.
  • The current Prime Minster of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern.

International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day: The International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day is observed every year on April 26 globally.

Highlights:

  • 26th April 2021 marks the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.
  • The day is observed to raise awareness of the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the risks of nuclear energy in general.
  • The International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day was first observed on the 30th anniversary of 1986 nuclear disaster.
  • In the year 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution designating 26 April as International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day.
  • In the year 2009, UN launched the International Chernobyl Research and Information Network (ICRIN), to support the programmes in developing the affected places.

History:

  • On April 26, 1986, a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Pripyat city of Ukraine with devastating consequences.
  • An explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant spread a radioactive cloud over large parts of the Soviet Union, now the territories of Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
  • Nearly 8.4 million people in the three countries were exposed to the radiation.
  • It is one of the worst nuclear disasters that has ever taken place in the world.

Note: International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.

International Climate Finance Plan of the US: The US President Joe Biden recently announced the country’s new Finance Plan at the Leader’s Summit on Climate.

The Summit was hosted by the USA.

Keypoints about the Plan:

  • United States will target reducing emissions by 50-52 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
  • The US will double its climate funding by 2024. It is to triple its climate funding eventually.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is to release a new Climate Change Strategy in November 2021 at the COP26.
  • The United States International Development Finance Corporation is to change its development strategy to include climate in its plan.
  • It will prioritize climate mitigation and adaption.
  • This is the first time the US is including climate in its development strategy.
  • The Millennium Change Corporation will focus on climate smart development and sustainable infrastructure.
  • It aims to direct more than 50% of its funding towards climate-related investments.
  • The US Treasury will direct the executive directors in multilateral development banks such as World Bank to ensure that they set ambitious climate finance targets.
  • The plan will also focus on ending international investments in carbon-intensive fossil fuel-based energy products.

Key Facts:

The United States is the world’s second leading emitter after China. The country will have to contribute 800 billion USD as its share in the international climate finance.

About Millennium Change Corporation:

  • It is a bilateral foreign US aid agency that was established in 2004.
  • It provides financial aid to the countries with good economic growth through good policies.

About US International Development Finance Corporation:

  • The US International Development Finance Corporation is responsible for providing finances to private development projects in low-income and middle-income countries.
  • It was formed in 2019.

World Intellectual Property Day: Every year, the World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated on April 26.

The day is celebrated to highlight the importance of Intellectual Property.

The day is celebrated by the World International Property and several other international organizations.

This year, the World Intellectual Property Day is being celebrated under the following theme:

Theme for 2021: IP and SMEs: Taking your ideas to market

History

  • The day was established by the World Intellectual Property Organisation in 2000. It aims to increase awareness on how copyright, patents, designs and trademarks impact on daily life.
  • April 26 was chosen to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day as “Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organisation” entered into force.
  • Celebrating World Intellectual Property Day was proposed by China.

About World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

  • The WIPO was established in 1967.
  • It entered into force in 1970.
  • It is one of the fifteen specialized agencies of the United Nations.
  • The organization administers 26 international treaties that ranges between protection of broadcast and establishing international patent classification.

Important Info:

India is a member of WIPO.

India is also a member of the following WIPO administered international treaties:

  • Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.
  • Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol
  • Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms
  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
  • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property
  • Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization
  • Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure
  • Washington Treaty on Intellectual Property in respect of Integrated Circuits
  • Patent Cooperation Treaty
  • Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks- Madrid Protocol

Global Immunization Strategy: The WHO (World Health Organization) recently unveiled UN-led Global Immunization Strategy to reach more than 50 million children who have missed lifesaving jabs against measles and other diseases because of COVID-19 disruption.

  • WHO, along with UNICEF and the vaccine alliance Gavi, stated that their new global strategy has the potential to save 50 million lives within less than a decade.

Aim:

  • To avoid multiple outbreaks of life-threatening diseases like measles, yellow fever and diphtheria, it must be ensured that routine vaccination services are protected in every country in the world.

WHO Survey on effects of COVID-19 pandemic on Vaccination:

  • A WHO survey showed more than one third of countries were still seeing disruptions to their routine immunization services.
  • The joint statement stated that around 60 mass vaccination campaigns were currently postponed in 50 countries which have put 228 million people, mostly children, at risk of diseases such as measles and polio.

About WHO:

WHO:

  1. WHO is an acronym for World Health Organization.
  2. It was created in 1948 by member states of the United Nations (UN) as a specialized agency with a broad mandate for international public health.
  3. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  4. The main objective of WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible standard of health." It plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease.
  5. Its mission is to improve people's lives, to reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to provide access to responsive health care for all people.
  6. The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board.
  7. The current Director-general of WHO is Tedros Adhanom.
  8. The WHO has played a leading role in several public health achievements, most notably the eradication of smallpox, the near-eradication of polio, and the development of an Ebola vaccine.
  1. Its current priorities include communicable diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, Ebola, malaria and tuberculosis; non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer; healthy diet, nutrition, and food security; occupational health; and substance abuse.

Project DANTAK: Project DANTAK which is one of the oldest Projects of the Border Roads Organization (BRO) recently commemorated its Diamond Jubilee in Bhutan.

Highlights:

  • Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Smt Ruchira Kamboj laid a floral wreath at the DANTAK Memorial in Simtokha on April 24, 2021.
  • Commandant, Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) Maj Gen Sanjeev Chauhan and Chief Engineer DANTAK Brig Kabir Kashyap also paid their respects at the memorial.
  • It was a fitting tribute to the sacrifices made by personnel of DANTAK in strengthening the bonds of friendship between India and Bhutan.

Background:

  • Over 1,200 DANTAK personnel laid down their lives while constructing important infrastructure in Bhutan.
  • Project DANTAK was established on April 24, 1961 as a result of the visionary leadership of His Majesty the Third King and then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.
  • DANTAK was tasked to construct the pioneering motorable roads in the Kingdom.
  • Over the years, the Project has completed approximately 1600 km of blacktopped roads and 120 km of tracks in Bhutan with 5000 meters of bridges over them.
  • DANTAK completed the road connecting Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang in 1968. In the same year, Thimphu was connected to Phuentsholing by DANTAK. Many Bhutanese had also volunteered to work with DANTAK.
  • Some other notable projects executed by the project include the construction of Paro Airport, Yonphula Airfield, Thimphu – Trashigang Highway, Telecommunication & Hydro Power Infrastructure, Sherubtse College, Kanglung and India House Estate.
  • The medical and education facilities established by DANTAK in far flung areas were often the first in those locations.
  • The food outlets along the road introduced the Bhutanese to Indian delicacies and developed a sweet tooth in them. The famous Takthi Canteen midway between Phuentsholing and Thimphu has been a compulsory stop for travelers.

Indo-Bhutan Relationship:

  • The Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1949 was signed between India and Bhutan which provides for, among other things, perpetual peace and friendship, free trade and commerce and equal justice to each other’s citizens.
  • In 2007, the treaty was re-negotiated, and provisions were included to encourage Bhutan’s sovereignty, abolishing the need to take India’s guidance on foreign policy.
  • Both of them share multilateral forums such as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal), BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) etc.
  • India is Bhutan's largest trading partner.
  • Mutually beneficial hydro-power cooperation with Bhutan forms the core of bilateral economic cooperation.
  • The 720 MW Mangdechhu was commissioned in August 2019. HEPs namely, 1200 MW Punatsangchhu-I, 1020 MW Punatsangchhu-II and Kholongchhu HEP (600 MWs) are under various stages of implementation.

BRO:

  • It refers to the Border Roads Organization.
  • In order to ensure coordination and expeditious execution of projects, the Government of India (GoI) set up the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) with the Prime Minister as Chairman of the Board and Defence Minister as Deputy Chairman.
  • The BRO was formed on 7 May 1960 to secure India's borders and develop infrastructure in remote areas of the north and north-east states of the country.
  • It develops and maintains road networks in India's border areas and friendly neighboring countries.
  • It is responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads along the borders with China and Pakistan. Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service (BRES) and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
  • BRO has been entirely brought under the Ministry of Defence.
  • Earlier it received funds from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • The current Director General of BRO is Lt. Gen.Harpal Singh.

World Day for Safety and Health at Work: This day is observed on 28 April every year by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since 2003.

  • The day is observed in order to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases at the workplace.
  • The day is also commemorated as International Day for Dead and Injured Workers.

Aims and Objectives:

  • The initiative was launched with the aim of promoting occupational safety and health culture globally.
  • The awareness-raising campaign works at reducing the magnitude of work-related deaths and injuries.
  • It stresses at the need of ensuring better infrastructure, making laws and services to enforce compliance, and recognizing emerging occupational risks to make the workplace safer for the workers.
  • The day is also used as a significant tool to bring to notice various emerging risks at the workplace ranging from new technologies to working conditions and psychosocial factors like work-related stress.

Theme for 2021:

  • The theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2021 is ‘Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises and invest now in resilient OHS systems’.
  • It acknowledges the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people’s working lives and the importance of building an effective, resilient, and adaptable Work Health and Safety framework.
  • It also addresses the issues related to the sudden shift to new forms of working arrangements like teleworking and how they have increased the OSH risk, including psychosocial risks and violence in particular.

About International Labour Organization (ILO):

  • It is a United Nations (UN) agency.
  • It deals with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It was founded in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.
  • It is a tripartite organization that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers in its executive bodies.
  • In 1969, ILO received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving fraternity and peace among nations.
  • India is the founding member of ILO.

May Day: May Day is observed on 1st May across the globe every year.

Key Points:

  • The Day is an official public holiday all over the world in various countries.
  • The day is celebrated to honour the contribution of workers across the world.
  • It is also known as International Labour Day.
  • The day aims at paying tribute to workers' sacrifices in achieving economic and social rights all over the world.

May Day 2021:

  • On the occasion, Director-General of International Labour Organization, Guy Ryder has called on workers, employers, governments, international organizations and all who are committed to building back better, to join forces to bring in a world of work with justice and dignity for all.

History:

  • During the era of industrialization, US industrialists exploited the working class by making them work 15 hours a day.
  • It was only on May 1, 1886, that the labour class came together and revolted against this unjust system and asked for paid leaves, good wages and proper breaks.
  • On 4 May during the strike the bomb blasts in Chicago's Haymarket took place. Due to which several people and police officers died and more than 100 people were injured.
  • However, the strike did not have any immediate effect on labourers work but it helped in establishing the eight-hour workday rule in several countries of the world.
  • In 1889 a meeting took place in Paris where it was decided to celebrate May Day on an annual basis through a proposal given by the Raymond Lavigne and said that international demonstrations are required to celebrate the anniversary of the Chicago protests.
  • In 1891, International's second congress officially recognized to celebrate May Day as an annual event.
  • This is the reason why May Day is celebrated every year.

Origin of May Day in India:

  • In India, the first May Day was celebrated in Madras (now known as Chennai) by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on May 1, 1923. It was also the first time when the Red Flag which symbolises Labour Day was used in India for the first time.
  • The day is linked to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties. In Hindi, Labour Day is also known as Kamgar Din or Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, Kamgar Divas in Marathi and Uzhaipalar Naal in Tamil.

Additional Info:

  • May 1 is also Maharashtra Day and Gujarat Day - on this day in 1960 the two states attained statehood after Bombay (Now Mumbai) had been divided on linguistic lines.

Net Zero Producers Forum: Saudi Arabia has decided to join the United States, Canada, Norway, and Qatar in forming ‘Net Zero Producers Forum’ for oil and gas producers to discuss how they can support the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Key facts:

  • Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude exporter.
  • The Forum will discuss ways to achieve net zero carbon emission targets to limit global warming.
  • Saudi Arabia had also said that it aimed to reduce its carbon emissions by generating 50% of the country’s energy from renewables by 2030.
  • US President unveiled plans to cut emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels recently.

World Press Freedom Day 2021: World Press Freedom Day is being observed on 3rd May 2021.

This day is celebrated on the 3rd of May every year.

Theme for 2021:

  • This year’s World Press Freedom Day theme “Information as a Public Good” serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good.

Highlights:

  • In his message, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged all governments to do everything in their power to support a free, independent and diverse media. 
  • He said, in many countries, journalists and media workers face censorship, abuse, harassment, detention and even death simply for doing their jobs.

History

  • As per the UNESCO Website, World Press Freedom Day was announced by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, following the recommendation of UNESCO's General Conference.
  • Since then, every year World Press Day is celebrated on May 3. As per UNESCO, the purpose of World Press Freedom Day is to:
  1. Celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom
  2. Assess the state of press freedom throughout the world
  3. Defend the media from attacks on their independence
  4. Pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty

Significance:

  • Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and the press plays an actively important role in making the general public aware of what's happening in their country and around the world.
  • The World Press Freedom Day is observed as a day to remind the governments of the world about the role journalists’ play, in providing information even under the most stressful situations.

USCIRF's Special 301 Report: The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its 2020 annual report.

Highlights:

According to the report, India has been put on the “Priority Watch List” along with eight other countries.

Another twenty-three countries were put on “Watch List”.

Reasons for categorizing India as a “Country of Particular Concern”:

  • According to the report, India has been inconsistent in the progress of IP protection. Though the enforcement of IP has gradually improved, India lacks in providing benefits for innovators.
  • The patent issues are of great concern in India.
  • The Indian Patent Law lacks patent validity and holds narrow patentability criteria.
  • This burdens companies in different sectors.
  • It leads to patent revocations.
  • Revocation is official cancellation.
  • Patent applicants are facing issues with time consuming pre and post grant procedures.
  • They face difficulties of long waiting periods to receive patent approval.
  • Stakeholders of India continue to express concerns over vagueness in the interpretation of Indian Patents Act.

About Special Report by USCIRF:

  • The Special 301 Report is prepared annually by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that identifies trade barriers to United States companies and products due to the intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents and trademarks, in other countries.
  • By April 30 of each year, the USTR must identify countries which do not provide "adequate and effective" protection of intellectual property rights or "fair and equitable market access to United States persons that rely upon intellectual property rights".
  •  
  • The Special 301 Report is published pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 as amended by Section 1303 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988.
  • The Special 301 Report was first published in 1989.
  • By statute, the annual Special 301 Report includes a list of "Priority Foreign Countries", that are judged to have inadequate intellectual property laws; these countries may be subject to sanctions.
  • In addition, the report contains a "Priority Watch List" and a "Watch List", containing countries whose intellectual property regimes are deemed of concern.
  • The report basically lists the countries that do not provide sufficient IP rights to American companies.

About US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

  • USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
  • The commission makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

Trump’s Mexico Border Wall: In the US, the Pentagon has decided to cancel the construction of parts of former US President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico that were being built using military funds.

Highlights:

Pentagon spokesman Jamal Brown said that the Department of Defense is proceeding with canceling all border barrier construction projects paid for with funds originally intended for other military missions and functions such as schools for military children, overseas military construction projects in partner nations, and the National Guard and Reserve equipment account. He added that the returned funds would be used for deferred military construction projects.

 Background:

  • Former US President Trump declared a national emergency in 2019 in an effort to redirect funding to build a wall along the U.S. southern border.
  • The diversion of funds from the Pentagon had been heavily criticized by US lawmakers, who said it put national security at risk and circumvented congress.
  • US President Joe Biden had issued a proclamation on January 20th, his first day in office, ordering a freeze on border wall projects and directing a review of the legality of its funding and contracting methods.

US Major Solar Energy Project: The US government has recently approved a major solar energy project in the California desert.

Key Points:

  • This project will be capable of powering nearly 90,000 homes.
  • According to the statement by the US Interior Department, 550 million dollar Crimson Solar Project will be sited on 2,000 acres of federal land west of Blythe, California.
  • The announcement comes as President Joe Biden has vowed to expand development of renewable energy projects on public lands as part of a broader agenda to fight climate change, create jobs.
  • The project will include a battery storage system and will be sited on land designated for renewable energy development by the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.

G-7 Foreign Ministers: External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar recently participated in the G-7 Foreign Ministers' meeting in London through video conference.

Highlights:

  • India, along with Australia, South Africa, South Korea, and the chair and secretary of ASEAN, was invited to the G7 talks as a guest country.
  • During the meeting Dr S Jaishankar deliberated on increasing support for the global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX and ensure fair access to vaccine stocks, along with girls’ education, arbitrary detention, and media freedom on the agenda.
  • He further added that India had embraced Green Growth since 2014 and transformation stories include renewable capacity, Ujjwala, LED distribution, forest cover and Jal Jeevan.
  • He said, but higher green ambitions require larger green resources and COP26 will be a test.
  • He spoke about the current medical oxygen crisis and shared that the second wave of COVID-19 has led to a shortage of medical oxygen for which the businesses have been asked to change their production practices to free up industrial oxygen and convert it into medical oxygen.
  • The 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th UN Climate Change conference.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson interacted with the participating Foreign Ministers in between the sessions.
  • Dr Jaishankar assured him that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and he will take forward the 2030 Roadmap.

In a tweet, Dr Jaishankar said, India and UK are committed to delivering on the Modi-Johnson vision of the ties.

World Thalassemia Day: World Thalassemia Day is celebrated on May 8 every year to commemorate Thalassemia victims and to encourage those who struggle to live with the disease.

The theme for 2021 World Thalassemia Day is “Addressing Health Inequalities Across the Global Thalassaemia Community”.

History:

  • The president and founder of TIF, Panos Englezos, established International Thalassaemia Day in 1994. He created the day in memory of his son, George, who lost his life to thalassaemia.
  • Each year the TIF creates a special theme for the day.
  • This day is a commemoration day in honour of all patients suffering from thalassaemia and their parents who have never lost hope for life, despite the burden of their disease and also to all scientists who are doing hard work with dedication and trying to provide improved quality of life to people with thalassaemia across the globe.

About Thalassemia:

  • Thalassaemia is a genetic hemoglobin disorder. Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein found in red blood cells.The function of hemoglobin is to transport oxygen to the blood.
  • A person with thalassaemia has less than normal amounts of hemoglobin.
  • It is an inherited blood disorder that passes from parents to children.
  • There are several types of thalassaemia disease and its treatment depends on its types and severity.
  • Its impact may range from mild to severe and life-threatening also.
  • This can make life very difficult, as it usually requires multiple blood transfusions.
  • Some people with the disease need a blood transfusion every two weeks.
  • This disease is most common with the Mediterranean, South Asian and African ancestry.

Thalassemia Vaccine:

  • Beginning at the age of t2 months a seven valent Conjugate Pneumococcal Vaccine should be given.
  • At the age of 24 months, a 23-valent Conjugate Pneumococcal Vaccine booster should be given.
  • Later, Pnuemovax booster should be considered every 5 to 10 years.

Thalassemia in India:

  • Every year around 10,000 children are born with Thalassemia in India.
  • The Thalassemia gene varies from 3% to 15% in northern India and 1% to 3% in southern India. Certain communities such as Lingayat in Karnataka, Koli’s and Agri’s in Maharashtra, Punjabis and Sindhis have higher carrier rate.

About Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojana:

  • The second phase of Thalassemia Bal Sewa Yojana was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in October 2020.
  • It aims to provide a one-time cure opportunity for Haemoglobinopathies like Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell Disease for patients who have a matched family donor.
  • It has now been extended to include Aplastic Anemia patients.
  • The Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) programme was launched in 2017.
  • It is funded by Coal India CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).

Additional Info:

About Sickle Cell Disease:

  • It is an inherited disease caused by defects, called mutations, in the beta globin gene that helps make hemoglobin.
  • The red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells.

World Sickle Cell Day:

  • World Sickle Cell Day 2020 was observed to increase awareness about the Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) at the national level.
  • The day is recognized by the United Nations and celebrated every year on 19th June.

International Day of the Midwife: International Day of the Midwife is observed globally on 5 May every year since 1992.

This day is celebrated to recognize the work of midwives and raise awareness about the status of midwives for the essential care they provide to mothers and their newborns.

The theme for 2021 International Day of the Midwife is “Follow the Data: Invest in Midwives.”

History of the day:

The idea of having a day to recognize and honour midwives came out of the 1987 International Confederation of Midwives conference in the Netherlands.

International Midwives’ Day was first celebrated May 5, 1991, and has been observed in more than 50 nations around the world.

International Confederation of Midwives (ICM):

  • ICM is an accredited non-governmental organization and represents midwives and midwifery to organizations worldwide that works closely with the WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and other organizations worldwide to achieve common goals in the care of mothers and children.
  • The President of ICM is Franka Cadee.
  • It is headquartered in Hague, Netherlands.
  • There are currently 108 national Midwives Associations, representing 95 countries across every continent.
  • ICM is organized into four regions: Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe.
  • Together these associations represent more than 300,000 midwives globally

World Hand Hygiene Day: Every year, the World Hand Hygiene Day is observed on May 5.

  • The day is organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness among people across the globe about the importance of hand hygiene in warding off many serious infections.
  • The theme for 2021 is ‘Seconds Save Lives: Clean Your Hands’.
  • The day recognizes hand washing as one of the most effective actions that can be taken to avoid a huge range of infections including the COVID-19 virus.

About WHO:

  • It is an acronym for World Health Organization. WHO was created in 1948 by member states of the United Nations (UN) as a specialized agency with a broad mandate for international public health. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The main objective of WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible standard of health."
  • It plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease.
  • Its mission is to improve people's lives, to reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to provide access to responsive health care for all people.
  • The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board.
  • The current Director-general of WHO is Tedros Adhanom.

World Asthma Day 2021: World Asthma Day is observed every year on the 1st Tuesday of May.

  • This year, World Asthma Day is observed on May 4, 2021.
  • The theme for 2021 World Asthma Day is “Uncovering Asthma Misconceptions“.
  • The day spread awareness about asthma disease and care around the world.
  • Whilst the primary focus is supporting the person with asthma, support may also extend to family, friends and caregivers.

History of World Asthma Day:

  • World Asthma Day is annually organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA).
  • In 1998, the first World Asthma Day was celebrated in more than 35 countries in conjunction with the first World Asthma Meeting in Barcelona, Spain.

What is Asthma?

  • Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that causes breathing problems.
  • Symptoms of asthma include breathlessness, coughing, wheezing and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
  • These symptoms vary in frequency and severity. When the symptoms are not under control, the airways can become inflamed making breathing difficult.
  • Whilst asthma cannot be cured, the symptoms can be controlled enabling people with asthma to live full lives.

Coal Miners’ Day: Coal Miners’ Day is celebrated on May 4 to recognize the hard work of some of the great unsung heroes of the Industrial Revolution.

  • The day is celebrated to show appreciation for the coal miners and honour their accomplishments.
  • Coal miners spend most of the days digging, tunneling and extracting coal from the mines.
  • They dig deep into the Earth to bring out the riches that help to sustain our life.
  • Coal mining is one of the toughest professions.

History of the day:

  • The coal miners have been working for centuries, however, they became significantly important during the Industrial revolution between 1760 and 1840 when coal was used on a large scale to fuel stationary and locomotive engines and heat buildings.
  • Coal is a natural resource that accelerates both economic and social development.
  • In India, coal mining began in the year 1774 when John Summer and Suetonius Grant Heatly of the East India Company started commercial exploration in the Raniganj Coalfield along the western banks of the Damodar River.
  • Demand for coal increased after the introduction of steam locomotives by railways in 1853. However, it was not a healthy place to work in. There were several incidents of extreme exploitation and massacre took place in coal mines in the name of profit.

International Firefighters’ Day: The International Firefighters’ Day (IFFD) is observed on May 4 every year since 1999.

  • The day is celebrated to recognize and honour the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure that their communities and environment are as safe as possible.
  • The day was instituted, after the deaths of five firefighters in tragic circumstances in a bushfire in Australia on 2 December 1998.

Victory Day 2021: On May 9, 2021, Russia marked the 76th anniversary of victory in World War II.

  • A military parade was held at the Red Square of Moscow. 
  • Victory Day is celebrated in Russia to mark the surrender of Germans in the Second World War.
  • This parade is being held every year on May 9 since 1995.
  • The parade is called “Moscow Victory Day Parade”.
  • The Victory Day Parade became an annual event only after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991.

Note: Red Square is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.

History:

  • Victory Day marks the end of World War II and the victory of the Allied Forces in 1945. Adolf Hitler had shot himself on April 30.
  • On May 7, German troops surrendered, which was formally accepted the next day, and came into effect on May 9.
  • In 1945, the Soviet Armed Forces held a military parade in Red Square after defeating the Nazi Army.
  • This was the longest and largest military parade held in Red Square.
  • More than 40,000 soldiers and 1,850 military vehicles participated in the parade.
  • The parade was held in June 24, 1945.
  • It was held a month after the Germans surrendered to the Soviet Commanders.
  • The Germans surrendered on May 9, 1945.

German Instrument of Surrender:

  • The German Instrument of Surrender was signed in Reims on May 7, 1945 by the Chief of Staff of the Germans, Alfred Jodi.
  • Another Instrument of Surrender was signed in May 9, 1945 in the outskirts of Berlin.
  • Both the instrument of surrender stipulated that the German forces will cease active operations.
  • While the second Instrument of Surrender was signed, it was late night in Germany but was the next morning in Soviet Union.
  • Therfore, Russia celebrates Moscow Victory Day on May 9th and East Germany observed it on May 8th as the Liberation Day.

New Era of Genetic Weapons: It is a Chinese document written in 2015 states that SARS virus shall be used as a “New Era of Genetic Weapons”.

Amid the ongoing second surge of Covid-19 pandemic, a document has been obtained that was written by the Chinese scientists and health officials in 2015 on the novel coronavirus.

The document has been reported by an Australian newspaper named as ‘Weekend Australian’.

Contents of the document:

  • A Chinese document written in 2015 states that SARS virus shall be used as a “New Era of Genetic Weapons”.
  • The virus can be artificially manipulated into a human virus disease, then weaponized and unleashed (released from restraint).
  • The title of the Chinese document was “The Unnatural Origin of SARS and New species of Man-Made Virus as Bioweapons”.
  • The paper also says that the world war three shall be fought with biological weapons.

 Authenticity of the documents:

  • The document was authored by PLA researchers and scientists.
  • The genesis of the document was located in the Chinese internet.
  • The document has also been revealed in an upcoming book called “What really happened in Wuhan”.

International response:

  • Countries such as US, Brazil, Australia have made strong statements against actions after the release of the report.
  • The countries are furious that Chinese actions on COVID were merely based on economic benefits.

Origin of the Virus:

  • China is being questioned over the handling of COVID-19 since it originated in Wuhan in 2019.
  • Some believe that it originated in a market where wild animals are traded.
  • Others believe that the virus leaked in a lab in Wuhan.

Lack of Transparency:

  • The executive director of Australian Strategic Policy Institute Peter Jennings has informed that the document might reveal why China has been reluctant for investigations into the origins of Covid-19.
  • China was not ready to allow the World Health Organization to conduct investigations about the origin of COVID-19 virus.
  • Only after international pressure did China allow WHO to make investigations to find out the origin.
  • Even after the outbreak of the disease in Wuhan in 2019, China was silent.
  • It did not inform the WHO about disease.
  • China also was not able to contain the disease.

The Pandemic:

  • The pandemic has been caused by a virus named SARS-Co V-2 which came up in December 2019 that causes respiratory diseases in human beings, ranging from a common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
  • According to the Johns Hopkins University, the overall global Covid-19 caseload has topped 157.9 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 3.28 million.

Additional Info:

  • China was also silent about the recent failure of Tianhe core module and its rocket Long March 5B falling in to the Indian Ocean.
  • Though the mission failed, the details of the returning rocket and how and where will it fall was not disclosed.
  • Just recently, remnants of China’s largest rocket ‘Long March 5B’ launched last month plunged back through the atmosphere on 9 May 2021.
  • It landed in the Indian Ocean, west of the Maldives bringing an end to the speculations surrounding its place of fall on the earth.
  • At 18 tonnes, it was one of the largest space debris that re-entered the Earth.
  • The NASA has come hard on China over space debris issue.

ASM3: India recently participated in the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3) - the global platform for discussing research and cooperation in the Arctic region.

Key Points:

  • Union Minister for Earth Sciences Harsh Vardhan virtually represented India in the ASM3 which was held in Tokyo, Japan.
  • It was jointly organized by Japan and Iceland.
  • The ASM3 is the first meeting to be held in Asia.
  • The first two meetings—ASM1 and ASM2—were held in the USA in 2016 and Germany in 2018, respectively.
  • The theme of 2021 Arctic Ministerial Meeting was - "Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic".

Objective:

  • The main objective of the meet is that provides opportunities to various stakeholders, including academia, indigenous communities, governments and policymakers, to enhance collective understanding of the Arctic region, emphasize and engage in constant monitoring, and strengthen observations.

India's stand at the Meet:

  • India's plans for research and long-term cooperation in the Arctic Region.
  • India will contribute observing systems in the Arctic, both in-situ and by remote sensing.
  • India would deploy open ocean mooring in the Arctic for long-term monitoring of upper ocean variables and marine meteorological parameters.
  • India is all set to launch NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite mission, in collaboration with the USA which will help in conducting global measurements of the cause and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.
  • India will continue to contribute to the Sustained Arctic Observational Network (SAON).
  • India proposed to host the next or future Arctic Science Ministerial meet.

India’s Engagement in the Arctic - Svalbard Treaty:

  • India’s engagement in the Arctic region started with the signing of Svalbard Treaty of Paris in 1920.
  • Since 2008, India constructed a permanent research station in the Arctic region.
  • It is called Himadri.
  • Himadri is located at NyAlesund, Norway.
  • In 2014, India also deployed a multi sensor observer called IndARC in Kongfjiorden fjord.
  • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa  under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India (GoI) coordinates and conducts the research in the Arctic region.
  • India recently drafted a new Arctic policy that aims at expanding scientific research, sustainable tourism and exploration of mineral oil and gas in the Arctic region.

India’s Arctic Policy:

The recently released draft Arctic Policy document outlines five pillars of India’s policy. They are as follows:

  1. Development of Human Resource capabilities
  2. Global governance and international cooperation
  3. Economics and Human development
  4. Scientific research
  5. Connectivity

NISER:

  • NISER is NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite mission.
  • It aims to conduct global measurements of the cause and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.

It is an ongoing project.

International Arctic Science Committee (IASC):

  • IASC is a non-governmental, international scientific organization.

About SAON:

  • Sustaining Arctic Observing Network (SAON) is a joint activity of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Arctic Council.
  • The purpose of SAON is to support and strengthen the development of multinational engagement for sustained and coordinated pan-Arctic observing and data sharing systems.

Arctic Region:

  • The Arctic region comprises the Arctic Ocean and parts of countries such as Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, USA (Alaska), Finland, Sweden and Iceland.
  • These countries together form the core of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum.
  • It is headquartered in Norway.

Arctic Council:

  • The Arctic Council was formed in 1996.
  • It addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic.
  • India is an “Observer” in the Arctic Council since 2013.

IND: International Nurses Day (IND) is a day observed every year on May 12 (the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth) to honour nurses.

IND is an international day observed around the world to mark the contributions that nurses make to society.

The theme for IND 2021 is "Nursing the World to Health".

About IND:

  • The International Nurses Day has been celebrated by the International Council of Nurses since 1965.
  • Every year, on International Nurses Day, the International Council of Nurses distributes educational and public information materials to be used by nurses everywhere.

History:

  • In 1953, a US health, education and welfare department official, Dorothy Sunderland, proposed to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to proclaim a "Nurses' Day" which he did not approve.
  • In 1974, May 12 was chosen to celebrate the day as it is the birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

About Florence Nightingale:

  • Known as the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale the founder of modern nursing, started work as a nursing in-charge of the British and allied soldiers, wounded during the Crimean War.
  • She was an English social reformer and also was the founder of modern nursing.
  • She trained and managed nurses during the Crimean War.
  • She took care of wounded soldiers at Constantinople.
  • The reputation for nurses in the Victorian culture also began to increase because of her.
  • She was called as “The Lady with the Lamp” because she used to carry a lamp while making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.
  • She was the first person to lay foundation of professional nursing.
  • She established Nursing school at St Thomas hospital in London.
  • It was the first nursing school in the world.
  • It is now a part of the King’s college of London.

Florence Nightingale Medal:

  • The Florence Nightingale Medal is the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve.
  • It is awarded by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

About Victorian Era:

  • In the history of the United Kingdom (UK), the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901.
  • This era was preceded by Edwardian period and was succeeded by the Gregorian period.
  • This era is characterized by a class-based society, a growing number of people able to vote, a growing state and economy, and Britain’s status as the most powerful empire in the world.

PM K P Sharma Oli:  On May 14, 2021, K P Sharma Oli was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Nepal for the third time.

Highlights:

  • President Bidya Devi Bhandari administered his oath of office.
  • CPN-UML chairperson KP Sharma Oli recently lost a crucial trust vote in the House of Representatives.
  • He was re-appointed as the Prime Minister as the opposition couldn’t prove their majority.
  • Along with Mr Oli, cabinet members under his administration also took an oath of secrecy.
  • Oli is now required to win a vote of confidence at the House within 30 days of his appointment as the new Prime Minister, failing which an attempt to form a government under Article 76 (5) would be initiated.

Article 76 of the Nepal Constitution:

  • Article 76 (5) of the constitution states that if a Prime Minister appointed according to clause 76 (3) fails to receive a vote of confidence pursuant to clause 76 (4), the president shall appoint a member as Prime Minister who produces bases that he/she may win the vote of confidence of the House as provided in clause (2).
  • Article 76 (2) states that if there is not clear majority of any party according to clause (1), the President shall appoint as Prime Minister the member of the House of Representatives who can have the majority with the support of two more parties represented in the House of Representatives.
  • The Prime Minister as appointed under the above procedure is given thirty days to prove his vote of confidence.
  • If the Prime Minister is not able to gain vote of confidence within thirty days, the President shall appoint the leader of the party that gained the highest number of members in the House of Representatives.
  • Again he is given time to prove his majority.
  • If none of the above clauses are possible, then the President shall dissolve the parliament and launch fresh elections.

 About PM Oli:

  • He is the 43rd Prime Minister of Nepal.
  • He previously served as prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016 and again from February 15, 2018 to May 13, 2021.

Nepal:

  • Nepal officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is mainly situated in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, bordering Tibet of China to the north, and India in the south, east, and west.
  • It is narrowly separated from Bangladesh by the Siliguri Corridor, and from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim.
  • Nepal is a multinational state, with Nepali as the official language.
  • Kathmandu is the nation's capital.
  • The current Prime Minister and President of Nepal are K p sharma Oli and Bidya Devi Bhandari.

International Day of Families: The International Day of Families is observed on the 15 May every year.

The theme of 2021 is “Families and New Technologies”.

This year's International Day for Families focuses a lot on digital technology - both in urban and rural space.  Few important facts are as follows:

  • Impact of digital technologies on children at different stages.
  • As classrooms have become virtual and remote learning has replaced teacher-student interactions, parents at home have a bigger role to play.
  • Enabling parents to do this without getting exhausted is also one of the key issues.
  • Analysis of technology and its impact on families including equity, access, privacy and online safety.
  • Digital literacy and dissemination of information and awareness.
  • Ensuring mental and physical well-being of parents and children and, handling negative impacts of technology like screen fatigue and cyber security.

History:

  • The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with resolution A/RES/47/237 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families.

 The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.

It focuses on key issues central to the well-being of families across the world like health, education, children's rights, gender equality, work-family balance and social inclusion among others.

U.S. fuel shortage 2021: The Colonial Pipeline announced that it has returned its systems to “normal operations”.

About:

  • A cyberattack forced the company to shut down last week, leading to gas shortages in the United States.
  • Ships and trucks were deployed to fill up storage tanks after the six-day Colonial Pipeline shutdown, the most disruptive cyberattack on record, triggered widespread panic buying that left filling stations across the U.S. Southeast dry.
  • Colonial was shut on 14th May 2021 after hackers launched a ransomware attack - effectively locking up its computer systems and demanding payment to release them.

2021 US Gas Shortage Highlights:

  • There are 121,000 stores in the US that sell 5,300 gallons of gasoline per day. They accounted to 80% of fuel sales. The demand in these stores increased two to five times.
  • The National average price of One Gallon of Gasoline increased by 3 USD for the first time since 2016.
  • Around 75% of gas stations in Washington DC were without fuel after the cyberattack.
  • More than half of North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia were out of fuel.Several gas stations were lined up with more than five to six trucks.
  • The American Airlines had to change flight schedules due to fuel shortages.
  • The US agencies coordinated to relax the rules to increase the trucks, ships and trains that shipped fuel.
  • However, these changes brought only minimal impacts.
  • President US Biden declared state of emergency to handle the fuel shortages amidst COVID-19 crisis.

DarkSide:

  • The strike on Colonial “is potentially the most substantial and damaging attack on U.S. critical infrastructure ever.
  • The FBI has accused a shadowy criminal gang called DarkSide of the ransomware attack.
  • DarkSide is believed to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe and avoids targeting computers that use languages from former Soviet republics.

Colonial Pipeline:

  • The Colonial Pipeline delivers approximately 100 million gallons of fuel per day and about 36 billion gallons per year to the markets it serves.
  • It delivers 45% of fuel to the East Coast of the US.
  • It runs from the Gulf coast to New York metropolitan region.
  • Only the south east region of the US is more dependent on this line.
  • The rest of the country has different sources.
  • Colonial was forced to shut down operations after a cyberattack crippled its energy infrastructure.

International Day of Light (IDL): The International Day of Light is celebrated on 16 May each year, the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by physicist and engineer, Theodore Maiman.

  • The message of 2021 International Day of Light is “Trust Science

 

Key Points:

  • The IDL is administered from the International Basic Science Programme (IBSP) of UNESCO, and its Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) at Trieste, Italy.
  • The day celebrates the role light plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy, thus helping achieve the UNESCO goals of education, equality, and peace.
  • The LASER is a perfect example of how a scientific discovery can yield revolutionary benefits to society in communications, healthcare and many other fields.

Why is the IDL celebrated?

  • In 2015, to raise global awareness of the achievements of light science and its applications, the UN observed the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).
  • The event helped establish links and collaborations between decision-makers, industry leaders, scientists, artists, social businesses, NGOs, and the public at large.
  • Following the success of IYL 2015, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and Russia placed a resolution before the UNESCO Executive Board supporting the idea of an International Day of Light.
  • It was adopted on September 19, 2016, at the Board’s 200th session at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, France.
  • The Board decision was endorsed by the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th session on November 7, 2017.
  • The first IDL was held on May 16, 2018.

Theodore Harold Maiman:

  • Theodore Harold Maiman (July 11, 1927 – May 5, 2007) was an American engineer and physicist who is widely credited with the invention of the laser.
  • His laser led to the subsequent development of many other types of lasers.
  • The laser was successfully fired on May 16, 1960.
  • In a July 7, 1960 press conference in Manhattan, Maiman and his employer, Hughes Aircraft Company, announced the laser to the world.
  • Maiman was granted a patent for his invention.
  • He received many awards and honors for his work.
  • His experiences in developing the first laser and subsequent related events are recounted in his book, The Laser Odyssey, republished recently under a new title The Laser Inventor: Memoirs of Theodore H. Maiman.

WTISD: It refers to the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.

  • WTISD is an international day   celebrated annually on 17th May since 1969.
  • The day is observed to raise awareness about the use of the internet as it can bridge the gap between society and economies and the digital divide.
  • This day also highlights the importance of communication in our lives through various means of technology.

Note: The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the critical role of information and communication technologies more than ever.

The theme for World Telecommunication Day and Society Day 2021:

  • The theme for this year is “Accelerating Digital Transformation in challenging times”, throughout the year with national, regional, and international initiatives to accelerate digital transformation.
  • The theme focuses on the critical role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for societies during the difficult pandemic times that people are facing currently.

History:

  • The day had previously been known as 'World Telecommunication Day' to commemorate the founding of the International Telecommunication Union on 17 May 1865.
  • On this day, the 1st international telegraph convention was signed in Paris.
  • It was instituted by the Plenipotentiary Conference in Malaga-Torremolinos in 1973.
  • World Information Society Day (WISD) was an international day proclaimed to be on 17 May by a United Nations General Assembly resolution, following the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis.
  • In November 2006, the UN General Assembly fixed a date to observe WISD on 17 May every year. During that same year, the ITU in a conference came up with an idea to combine both celebrations as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) as one.

About ITU:

  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations (UN) information and communication technology specialized agency.
  • It was established in 1865 to promote international connectivity in communication networks.
  • The agency allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, formulate technical standards to ensure the seamless interconnection of networks and technologies, and strive to improve the global community’s access to low-level services ICT access.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The ITU is also the oldest of all the UN Specialized Agencies.

UNGRSW 2021: UNGRSW stands for UN Global Road Safety Week.

  1. The United Nations is celebrating its 6th UNGRSW between 17th May, 2021 and 23rd May, 2021.
  2. The week is celebrated to create awareness of road safety and reduce road deaths.
  3. This year, in 2021, the Global Road Safety Week is celebrated under the following theme:
  • Theme: Streets for Life
  • The tagline of the theme is #Love30 which calls for 30 km/h (20 mph) speed limits to be the norm for cities, towns and villages worldwide.

Global Plan on Road Safety:

  1. As a part of 2021 Global Road Safety Week, United Nations launched the Decade Plan of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030.
  2. It is a global plan on road safety.
  3. The plan is in line with the Stockholm Declaration.
  4. This calls for improving laws, designing rods and vehicles and law enforcement on behavioral risks such as alcohol, speeding and driving.

About Global Road Safety Week:

  1. Global Road Safety Week is a biennial global road safety campaign hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
  2. The first Global Road Safety Week was celebrated in 2007.
  3. It brings together individuals, governments, NGOs, corporations, and other organizations from around the world to raise awareness of road safety and make changes that will reduce the number of road deaths.

COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act: The United States (US) Senate recently passed a hate crimes bill to counter a rise in the anti-Asian Hate Crimes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights:

  • The bill was passed on May 18, 2021, with 364-62 vote with 62 Republicans voting against the bill.
  • It must pass the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a clear majority.
  • President Joe Biden has called for passage.

Background:

  • The legislation, known as the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, was introduced by Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Democratic-Republican Grace Meng of New York.
  • In April 2021, the legislation passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 94-1.

What are the reasons for introduction of the hate crime bill?

The following are the reason for introduction of Hate Crime Bill.

  • The passage of the bill has come in the view of growing hate crimes against the Asian-American community in the US.
  • The passage of the anti-Asian hate crimes bill has come less than 2 months after a gunman had killed eight people in three Asian-owned spas in the greater Atlanta. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent.
  • On May 18, the US House also planned to pass a separate resolution condemning the massacre in Georgia on March 16, 2021.

About COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act:

  • The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed to prevent hate crimes against Asians will create a new position at the Justice Department to speed up the review of the potential COVID-19 related hate crimes and incidents reported at the federal, state, and local levels.
  • It will also direct the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to work with the community-based organizations for issuing guidance raising awareness of the hate crimes during the pandemic.
  • The newly passed bill will also require the US attorney general to issue the guidance to work with the local and state law enforcement agencies for establishing online reporting of them.

ITD: It refers to the International Tea Day.

 The motto for celebrating ITD every year is “Harnessing Benefits for all From Field to Cup”.

  • ITD is observed every year on May 21.
  • May has been selected because the season of quality tea production starts in May in most of the tea producing countries.
  • Tea production and processing around the world are the main source of livelihood for millions of families, particularly in developing countries.
  • ITD is for celebrating tea - central to so many cultures.
  • It contributes to the employment of millions of people. Whether you are sleepy, tired, cold or worried - a cup of tea can be the perfect solution.

 History:

  • The first ITD was held in New Delhi in 2005.
  • The United Nations declared May 21 as International Tea Day after Indian government moved a proposal at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea expanding the observance of International Tea Day through UN FAO.

Objective:

The main objective of celebrating this day is as follows:

  • To boost its production and consumption,
  • To help in fighting hunger and poverty in rural areas 
  • To improve the condition of the tea producers and tea workers.
  • Empowerment of women
  • It seeks to encourage the status of tea workers, daily wages, social security, employment security, health and workers' rights
  • The sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:

Moreover, there is an urgent need to raise public awareness of the importance of tea for rural development and sustainable livelihoods and to improve the tea value chain to contribute to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Some Interesting Facts About Tea:

  1. Tea is a beverage made from the Camellia sinesis plant.
  2. Tea is one of the world's oldest beverages and most popular after water.
  3. Records suggest that tea had originated in northeast India, north Myanmar and in southwest China.
  4. There is evidence that tea was consumed in China some 5,000 years ago.
  5. Tea plantations provide employment to millions of growers and tea estate workers worldwide.
  6. The production and processing of tea are among the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SGDs.
  7. The tea industry helps in fighting poverty and hunger.
  8. It contributes to the empowerment of women and the sustainable use of ecosystems.
  9. While more than half of the tea produced is consumed locally, it is widely traded and exported.
  10. Over the years, the tea industry worldwide has seen rapid growth.
  11. In some of the largest tea producing countries, the per capita consumption of tea is low, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)
  12. There are many health benefits linked to drinking tea. Tea is believed to be anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant and green tea is known to be good for weight loss.

Tea producing states of India:

India is the second largest tea producing country after China. Also, India is the largest consumer of tea in the world with its consumption around 30% of global tea output.

The majorly producing teas states are Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Bihar, Odisha.

About Tea in Nepal and Darjeeling:

Darjeeling and Nepal are known for some of the finest teas in the world.

First Flush tea:

  • The first flush arrives in spring - between mid-March and May.
  • This variety of tea is clear, light and extremely aromatic.
  • It commands the highest price in international markets.

Second Flush Tea:

  • The second or summer flush arrives between June and mid-August.
  • This is a darker tea and has a stronger flavour.

Third Flush Tea:

  • The third or autumn flush arrives in October and November.
  • This variety of tea is dark and quite strong.

Additional Info:

  • From the world finest tea - Makaibari tea grows in Makaibari Tea Estate located Kurseong subdivision of the Darjeeling district in the Indian state of West Bengal.
  • The makabari tea factory is the world's first tea factory that was established in 1859.
  • Makaibari Tea Estate was the first garden to be certified for trade in the world.
  • It was one of the first few to be awarded fair trade certifications. In 1988 it was the first garden to be awarded/ certified as the fully organic tea garden estate.

Moctar Ouane: Moctar Ouane has recently been reappointed as Prime Minister of Mali.

Key Points:

  • He was appointed as Prime Minister of the caretaker government in August 2020 after the removal of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
  • Ouane will have to form a new government with room for the political class, under the instructions of President Bah N’Daw.
  • In April 2021, Mali’s interim government had announced that it would hold a constitutional referendum on October 31 and an election in February 2022.
  • Mali is facing a political crisis due to disputed legislative elections and economic crisis due to economic stagnation, corruption, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

About Mali:

  • Mali officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa mostly in the Saharan and Sahelian regions.
  • The sovereign state of Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country's southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers.
  • The capital of Republic of Mali is Bamako.
  • The currency used here is West African CFA franc.

Nepal Political Crisis: Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on 22 May 2021 dissolved the Parliament and fixed general elections in November amid a worsening COVID-19 outbreak.

Highlights:

The decision was taken on the recommendations of cabinet headed by caretaker Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

Fresh elections will be held in November 2021.

As per the presidential statement, neither the caretaker Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, nor opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba were able to demonstrate a majority to form a new government by the Friday deadline set by Bhandari.

Article 76 (7) of the Constitution of Nepal:

  • President gets power to dissolve House of Representatives or Parliament from Article 76 (7) of the Constitution of Nepal.
  • Article 76 (7) of the Constitution of Nepal states, Prime Minister can dissolve the house of representatives and announce a new date to conduct election within six months when the Prime Minister appointed under Clause (5) fails to own vote of confidence or when no member can be appointed as Prime Minister.

What was the reason for dissolving the Parliament?

  • Bidhya Devi Bhandari dissolved the parliament after considering the claims of support by both the sides. KP Sharma Oli had claimed of having support of 153 lawmakers including members of Janata Samajbadi Party.
  • On the other hand, Nepali Congress President Deuba claimed to have the support of 149 parliamentarians.
  • Both the claims did not comply because Nepal’s house of representatives is constituted of 275 members.

Political crisis in Nepal:

  • The political crisis in Nepal started in May 2018 when KP Sharma Oli-led CPN-UML & National Communist Party got merged and decided to serve as joint chairmen of ruling party.
  • CPN-UML was the largest party in House of Representatives but increasing disputes within the ruling part resulted in split again.
  • Following the split, in December 2020, Prachanda-led party expelled Prime Minister Oli as co-Chair and Prachanda was made the first Chairman.
  • In 2020, house of representatives was dissolved but was reinstated again following the order of Supreme Court in 2021.
  • However, recently on May 10, 2021 Prime Minister Oli lost the vote of confidence and the house stands dissolved.

74th World Health Assembly: Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan recently chaired the 74th World Health Assembly virtually.

Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros was also present on the occasion.

Note: Dr Harsh Vardhan is the Chairman of WHO Executive Board.

Key Points At the Meet:

  • Dr Harsh Vardhan noted that the Board called for further efforts to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility.
  • He said, the Board engaged in discussions on COVID-19 impact on global health.
  • The Board recommended that the 74th World Health Assembly must consider the report on mental health preparedness and response for the Covid-19 pandemic. It also recommended endorsing the updated comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for the period of 2013 to 2030.
  • The Board also encouraged WHO to work closely with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization to identify the zoonotic source of the virus.
  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan has said, the Board decided to encourage Member States to take further action to address diabetes as a public health problem.
  • He said, the Board has recommended that the 74th World Health Assembly should adopt a decision to present a road map for the global action plan for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases till the year 2030.

About WHO:

  • It is an acronym for World Health Organization.
  • WHO was created in 1948 by member states of the United Nations (UN) as a specialized agency with a broad mandate for international public health.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The main objective of WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible standard of health." It plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease.
  • Its mission is to improve people's lives, to reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to provide access to responsive health care for all people.
  • The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board. The current Director-general of WHO is Tedros Adhanom.

Vineyard Wind Project: In US, President Joe Biden's administration has recently approved the nation's first major offshore wind farm, billing it as the launch of a new domestic energy industry that will help eliminate emissions from the power sector.

 

Key Points:

  • The environmental review of the Vineyard Wind project as part of the administration's broad plan to speed renewable energy development on federal lands and waters will be resumed by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
  • This approval is in line with U.S. President Biden's broader agenda to combat global climate change by decarbonizing the nation's economy.
  • The approved Vineyard Wind project will be located 14 miles (23 km) off the coast of Massachusetts.
  • The project is a significant milestone in the more than decade-long effort to permit a commercial-scale offshore wind project in U.S. waters.

Significance:

  • The project is intended to create enough electricity to power 400,000 homes.
  • The project will begin delivering electricity to the grid in the second half of 2023.
  • The project is meant to create 3,600 jobs, delivering on Biden's campaign promise that fighting climate change by expanding clean energy sources will boost employment.

United States (US):

  • The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.
  • The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean.
  • The currency used in USA is United States dollar - USD also abbreviated US$.
  • The capital of US is Washington, D.C.
  • The current President of US is Joe Biden

International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories: United Nations (UN) is observing “International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories” from May 25 to 31, 2021.

Aim:

The main aim of observing International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGT) is a follows:

  • To take effective measures to safeguard and guarantee the inalienable rights of the peoples of the NSGT to their natural resources, including land.
  • To establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources.
  • Requesting the Administering Powers to take all necessary steps to protect the property rights of the peoples of those Territories.

Chapter XI of the UN Charter – the Declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories – provides that Member States administering Territories, which have not attained self-government recognize “that the interests of the inhabitants of these Territories are paramount” and accept as a “sacred trust” the obligation to promote their well-being.

History:

  • On December 06, 1999, the UN General Assembly called for the annual observance of the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGT).

What is NSGT?

In UN Charter, a Non-Self-Governing Territory (NSGT) is defined as a Territory “whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government.”

Background:

  • In 1946, several UN Member States identified a number of Territories under their administration that were not self-governing and placed them on a UN list. Countries administering Non-Self-Governing Territories are called administering Powers. 
  • However, as a result of the decolonization process over the years, most of the Territories were removed from the list.
  • Fifty Four Territories acquired self-government from 1960 to 2002.
  • At present, there are 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining.

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula: United Nations (UN) International Day to End Obstetric Fistula is observed every year on 23rd May since 2013.

Highlights:

  • The theme 2021: “Women’s rights are human rights! End fistula now!”.
  • The day is being observed to significantly raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula, as well as urging post-surgery follow-up and tracking of fistula patients.
  • The day aims to promote action towards treating and preventing obstetric fistula, a condition that affects many girls and women during childbirth in developing countries.

History:

  • In 2003 the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners launched the global Campaign to End Fistula, a collaborative initiative to prevent fistula and restore the health of those affected by the condition.
  • The day was officially recognized in 2012.

About Obstetric fistula:

  • Obstetric fistula is an injury that can occur during childbirth.
  • It is a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum caused by prolonged, obstructed labour without treatment.
  • The condition typically leaves women incontinent, and as a result they are often shunned by their communities.
  • Sufferers often endure depression, social isolation and deepening poverty.

Note: An estimated 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are living with this injury, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.

Prevention of Obstetric fistula:

  • Obstetric fistula is preventable. It can be avoided by delaying the age of first pregnancy, the cessation of harmful traditional practices and timely access to obstetric care.

About UNFPA:

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities is a UN agency aimed at improving reproductive and maternal health worldwide.
  • It promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity.
  • There are close links between sustainable development, reproductive health and gender equality.
  • It was founded in 1969.
  • It is headquartered in New York, New York, United States.
  • The current head of UNFPA is Natalia Kanem.

Guillermo Lasso: Guillermo Lasso, a conservative, assumed presidency of Ecuador on May 24, 2021 and has become first right-wing leader in 14 years in Ecuador.

Highlights:

  • The 65-year-old former banker was sworn in the office by Guadalupe Llori, the President of the National Assembly.
  • He has become the 47th President of Ecuador.
  • CREO right-wing Guillermo Lasso had won Ecuador’s Presidential Elections 2021 with over 52% of votes against Andres Arauz.
  • He will take over Ecuador at a time when the country is battling health and economic crisis.
  • His first challenge will be rejuvenation of an economy that has contracted by 7.8 percent in 2020 and the overall debt stands at 63 percent of GDP is the major challenge before the new President.
  • Furthermore, Ecuador is battling economic and health crises as covid-19 has infected about 420,000 people and killed more than 20,000.

 About Guillermo Alberto:

  • His full name is Guillermo Alberto Santiago Lasso Mendoza.
  • He is a banker, businessman, writer and politician who recently became the 47th president of Ecuador.
  • He is the first centre-right president in two decades.
  • In 1998, Lasso became the Governor of Guayas, Ecuador Later in 2003; he was named as the Ecuadorian Itinerant Ambassador.

 About Ecuador:

  • Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador is a country in northwestern South America.
  • Ecuador is named after the Equator, the imaginary line around the Earth that splits the country in two. Most of the country is in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • It is not a landlocked country and is surrounded by Colombia to the north, Peru to the east & south, and Pacific Ocean to the west.
  • Galapagos Islands in Pacific is also a part of Ecuador.
  • The capital of Ecuador is Quito.
  • The currency used here is United States Dollar.
  • It is a founding member of United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement and Organization of American States.
  • It is the first country in world to recognize rights of nature or ecosystem rights through Constitution of Ecuador in 2008.

Collinet Makosso: The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso has recently appointed Anatole Collinet Makosso as the country’s Prime Minister.

Key facts:

  • He replaced Clement Mouamba who resigned on May 4, along with his entire government team.
  • Before this appointment, Makosso was the education minister of the Central African country.
  • Since 2016, he has held the position of Minister of Primary and Secondary Education in charge of literacy.
  • He was also minister of youth and civic instruction from 2011 to 2016.
  • Mr Collinet Makosso was the deputy campaign manager of candidate Sassou Nguesso during the last presidential election.

Republic of the Congo:

  • The Republic of the Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville or the Congo Republic or simply either Congo or the Congo, is a country located in the western coast of Central Africa.
  • To the west lies Gabon; Cameroon to its northwest and the Central African Republic to its northeast; the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southeast and the Angolan exclave of Cabinda to its south; and the Atlantic Ocean to its southwest.
  • Its capital city is Brazzaville which lies across the Congo River from Kinshasa, the capital of neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The currency used here is Congolese franc.
  • The current President of Republic of Congo is Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Ricochet Impact: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently warned about Ricochet impact of the crisis on the developed and advanced economies.

Key Points:

  • According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), Emerging-market nations’ struggle to move out of covid-19 pandemic-induced economic crisis can hurt developed nations.
  • IMF suggests that, developed nations should ensure that rapid support is available to impacted countries through emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance.
  • Poorer nations are facing the risk of increasing interest rates even though, their economies aren’t growing.

What is Ricochet Impact?

  • Ricochet means rebound, bounce, or skip off from surface, particularly in projectile cases.

International Monetary Fund (IMF):

  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an institution in the United Nations system.
  • IMF is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • It comprises of 190 countries.
  • The IMF focuses on macroeconomic and financial stability issues and work together to boost global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, promote high employment, facilitate international trade, and sustainable economic growth.
  • It also takes measures to reduce poverty across the world.
  • It was set up in 1944 but started functioning in 1945 at Britton Woods Conference.
  • IMF pays an important role in management of balance of payments issues and international financial crises.

International Current Affairs - April 2021

25th March: Every year 25th of March is celebrated as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade across the globe. The main objective of celebrating this day is to honor and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system. This day was celebrated for the first time in 2008. The theme was 'Breaking the Silence, Lest We Forget'.

On 25th March 2020 the theme for International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is 'Confronting Slavery’s Legacy of Racism Together'.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. it is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Egypt and Israel by the Gulf of Aqaba. Its Capital city is Riyadh. The currency used here is Saudi riyal.

Recently, the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan announced that Saudi Arabia has assured India on uninterrupted LPG supply amidst growing threat of COVID-19. The Union Minister made this announcement after his discussions with Saudi Minister of Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, on global oil market developments.

India is the second largest importer of LPG in the world. It fulfils half of its requirements from the Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

United States (US): The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. The capital of US is Washington, D.C. The current President of US is Donald Trump.

Recently, the President of US Donald Trump invoked the Defence Production Act. The act has been invoked in order to direct General Motors, a Multinational Corporation to manufacture ventilators needed to fight COVID-19.

Defence Productin Act: The Defense Production Act (Pub. L. 81–774) is a United States federal law. It was enacted on September 8, 1950 in response to the start of the Korean War. It was part of a broad civil defense and war mobilization effort in the context of the Cold War. It was enacted by the 81st United States Congress.

The Act contains three major sections.

1. The act authorizes the president of the United States to make or even force a business to accept and prioritize contracts that are essential for defence of the country. It also allows the president to designate materials to be prohibited from hoarding or price gouging.

2. It authorizes the President to frame regulations, order to allocate services, materials and facilities that will promote defence of the country.

 3. It authorizes the President to control the civilian economy so that scarce and critical materials necessary to the national defense effort are available for defense needs.

G20 Finance Ministers Meet: Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the 2nd Extraordinary G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG). The virtual meet chaired by Saudi Arabia was held on 31st March 2020 to follow up on discussion of the 1st virtual meeting as well as to discuss the follow-up in line with the statement made by G20 Leaders during the G20 Virtual Leaders Summit held on March 26, 2020. During the 2nd Extraordinary Virtual G20 FMCBG Meeting, impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy and coordinate efforts in response to this global challenge was discussed. 

The first G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors was held on March 23, 2020 where it was decided that the finance ministers of the member countries should meet on a regular basis to continue discussions on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact on markets and economic conditions and take further actions to support the economy during and after this phase. During the summit, G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors were given the task by the leaders to deliver a G20 Action Plan in Response to COVID-19, in close cooperation with relevant international organizations (IOs).

International Mine Awareness Day: It is a global event that is observed annually on the 4th of April. The General Assembly on 8 December, 2005 declared that 4th of April of each year to be observed as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. It was first observed on 4 April 2006. The main aim of observing the day is to raise awareness about landmines and progress toward their eradication.

The mine action personnel, United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) has made efforts to clear landmines and explosive remnants of war and to mark and fence off dangerous areas. It includes helping victims and teaching people how to remain safe in a mine-affected environment. It also advocates for universal participation in international treaties related to landmines, explosive hazards of war and their victims, and destroying landmines stockpiled by governments and non-state armed groups. For over 20 years UNMAS staff and others are helping to rehabilitate health care facilities, keep access routes open for humanitarian workers, medical staff and peacekeepers and who enable communities to reach them safely in more than 30 mine-affected countries.

Decades ago, millions of landmines were buried in countries across the world. From Cambodia to Mozambique, in Angola and in Afghanistan, thousands of lives were lost, with others altered forever because of one unlucky step. The outcry by civil society in the early 1990s drove the multilateral system to take a stand against the use of anti-personnel mines, leading to the Mine Ban Convention of 1997 and other crucial frameworks. Today, many countries have declared themselves mine free – with others well on the way.

This year due to the Covid-19 pandemic this year’s observance of the International Day for Mine Awareness has been scaled back.

UNMAS: It refers to the United Nations Mine Action Service. UNMAS is a service located within the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations. It specializes in coordinating and implementing activities to limit the threat posed by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. it was founded in October 1997. It is headquartered in New York, New York, United States. The current Director of UNMAS is Agnès Marcaillou.

WAAD: It refers to World Autism Awareness Day. WAAD is an internationally recognized day and is observed on 2 April every year since 2008. It is one of only seven official health-specific UN Days. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution "62/139. World Autism Awareness Day", passed in council on 1 November 2007, and adopted on 18 December 2007.

It is observed in order to raise public awareness of autism. The day highlights the need to help and improve the quality of life of those with autism so that they can lead full and meaningful lives as an integral part of society. It encourages Member States of the United Nations to take measures to raise awareness about people with autistic spectrum disorders including autism and Asperger syndrome throughout the world.

This year is the 13th annual World Autism Awareness Day. The theme for 2020 this year is ‘The Transition to Adulthood’. This theme draws attention to the adulthood of people with autism.

Autism: Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) impacts the nervous system and affects the overall cognitive, emotional, social and physical health of the affected individual. ASD impacts the nervous system and affects the overall cognitive, emotional, social and physical health of the affected individual.

UNGA: It refers to the United Nations General Assembly. UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. It is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Member States of the UN, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of international issues including peace and security. It was formed in 1985. It is headquartered in New York, New York, United States. The current President of UNGA is Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

Recently, UNGA unanimously adopted a resolution on COVID-19, calling for intensified international cooperation to defeat the pandemic. The resolution titled Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) which is co-sponsored by India including 188 countries is first such document on the global pandemic to be adopted by the world organization.

The resolution called for intensified international cooperation in exchanging information, scientific knowledge and best practices and applying guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization.

USAID: It refers to the US Agency for International Development. USAID is an independent agency of the United States federal government. It is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance. It is one of the leading aid agencies globally. It was founded on 3rd November 1961. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., United States. The current Administrator of USAID is Mark Green.

Recently, the United States announced $174 million financial assistance to 64 countries including $2.9 million to India to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic. The announced aid is a part of the American Global Response Package. The US government provided the fund of $2.9 million assistance package to India fight the coronavirus pandemic through its US Agency for International Development (USAID).

The main objective of the provided fund is to help the Indian government prepare laboratory systems, activate case finding and event-based surveillance, and support technical experts for response and preparedness and also to provide care for those who are affected and help the local communities with the tools to stop the  COVID-19 pandemic spreading in the country.

The US government through USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other relevant agencies, is working closely with India to support the country’s response to the pandemic.

USAID will also support the World Health Organization (WHO) initiatives in India.

World Health Day: World Health Day is a global health awareness day. It is celebrated globally on the 7th of April every year. The World Health Organization (WHO) held the First World Health Assembly in 1948. The Assembly decided to celebrate 7th April as World Health Day each year, with effect from 1950. The World Health Day is held to mark WHO's founding. The celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.

Recently, World Health Day was celebrated throughout the Globe. The theme for the 2020 World Health Day is 'Support Nurses and Midwives'. This day was observed to honor the contribution of nurses and midwives, recognizing their vital role in keeping the world healthy. Nurses and other health workers are at the frontlines of COVID-19 response, putting their own health at risk to protect the broader community.

G20: The G20 means the Group of Twenty. It is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union (EU). The membership of the G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union. The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. It was established on 26 September 1999 with an aim to discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.  The objective of G20 is to unite world leaders around shared economic, political and health challenges. The current Chairman of G20 is King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (2020).

Recently, a virtual meeting was held by the G20 Energy ministers. The meeting was called by Saudi Arabia, chaired by the Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz.  It was held on 10 April 2020 to ensure stable energy markets as it is greatly affected by demand due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

India was represented by the Energy Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan. The Energy Ministers of other G20 nations, guest countries and heads of international organizations such as OPEC, IEF and IEA were also present during video conferencing,

Japan: Japan is an island country located in East Asia . It is made up of 6,852 islands. The Japanese name for Japan is Nihon or Nippon which means sun origin. It is bordered by the Sea of Japan to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and spans from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Philippine Sea in the south. Tokyo is the capital of Japan. The currency used there is Japanese Yen. The current Prime Minister of Japan is Shinzō Abe.

Recently, Japan has Japan declared State of Emergency to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The emergency is to last till 6th Of May 2020. At present there are more than 3,906 royal coronavirus cases in Japan.

The Japanese government has also approved the stimulus package worth 108 trillion yen ($990 billion) which is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output to soften the impact of the epidemic on the world’s third-largest economy.

World Chagas Disease Day: The World Chagas Disease Day was observed globally on 14 April 2020 for the first time. The main objective of marking the day to increase awareness of Chagas disease and also to focuse on the resources needed to prevent, control and eliminate the disease.

April 14th is marked by World Health Organization (WHO) and several other world organizations as a day to spread awareness about this “silent and silenced disease”. World Chagas Disease Day was declared during the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Chagas Disease: The Chagas disease is also called American trypanosomiasis. This vector-borne disease is caused by aparasitic protozoan called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is usually transmitted by faeces and urine of triatomine bugs which belongs to the family of assassin bugs. The disease can cause swelling and fever. It can be long-lasting and if not treated then it leads to cardiac arrests and can be fatal as well. The disease does not spread through human to human contact but it can spread through infected blood transfusion. The disease is mainly prevalent in USA, Western Pacific, European and Canada.

The disease got its name from Dr Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas who diagnosed the first patient with the disease in Brazil on 14 April 1909.

Chagas disease can be treated by taking medication that kills the parasite and on managing symptoms.

World Art day: World Art Day is an international celebration of the fine arts. The day is celebrated globally on the 15th of April every year. It was declared by the International Association of Art (IAA) a partner of UNESCO, in order to promote awareness of creative activity worldwide. A proposal was put forward at the 17th General Assembly of the International Association of Art in Guadalajara to declare April 15 as World Art Day. The first celebration was held in 2012. This holiday was chosen in honour of Leonardo da Vinci's birth anniversary.

According to UNESCO, World Art Day celebrations help strengthen the links between artistic creations and society, encourage awareness of the diversity of artistic expressions and highlight the contribution of artists to sustainable development. The day also focuses on arts education in schools.

World Hemophilia Day: The day is observed annually on the 17th of April across the globe. It is observed on 17 April every year to increase awareness of haemophilia, von Willebrand disease, and other inherited bleeding disorders. World Haemophilia Day was initiated by the World Federation of Haemophilia. April 17 has been chosen in honour the birth anniversary of the World Federation of Haemophilia founder Frank Schnabel. The day has been observed since 1989 by worldwide patient groups.

Recently, the 30th edition of World Haemophilia Day was observed on 17th April 2020. The theme aims to help increase the awareness of inherited bleeding disorders and the need to make adequate care accessible everywhere within the world easily.

World Federation of Hemophilia was founded in 1963. It is headquartered in Montreal, Canada. The founder of World Federation of Hemophilia is Frank Schnabel.

South Korea: South Korea officially the Republic of Korea is an East Asian nation on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. It constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and it shares one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea. Its Capital is Seoul. The currency used here is South Korean won. The current President and the Prime minister of South Korea are Moon Jae-in and Chung Sye-kyun respectively.

Recently, the South Korea’s ruling party wons an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections amid the Covid-19 outbreak. President Moon Jae-In’s left-leaning party won an absolute majority in Parliamentary elections.

South Korea was among the first countries to hold a national vote since the pandemic began.

IMF and World Bank: IMF refers to International Monetary Fund. IMF and the World Bank are institutions in the United Nations system. They share the same goal of raising living standards in their member countries. Their approaches to this goal are complementary, with the IMF focusing on macroeconomic and financial stability issues and the World Bank concentrating on long-term economic development and poverty reduction. The IMF and the World Bank were both founded at an international conference convened in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States in July 1944.

Recently, India represented by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attended the Development Committee Meeting of the World Bank-IMF through video conference. It was the 101st meeting of the developed committee. During the meeting, measures taken by India to combat Covid-19 including social support measures for poor and vulnerable, and relief measures for firms in statutory and regulatory compliance matters were discussed.

    The next meet of the Development committee meet has been scheduled on 17 October 2020.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. it is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Egypt and Israel by the Gulf of Aqaba. Its Capital city is Riyadh. The currency used here is Saudi riyal.

Recently, Saudi Arabia organized the G-20 Extraordinary Agriculture Ministers Meeting was held through Video Conferencing. The meeting was held on the issue of COVID-19 as well as its impact on food security, safety and nutrition. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar from India participated in the Extraordinary virtual meeting of G-20 Agriculture Ministers.

G20: The G20 means the Group of Twenty. It is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union (EU). The membership of the G20 consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union. The members of the G20 group are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union (EU). The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. It was established on 26 September 1999 with an aim to discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.  The objective of G20 is to unite world leaders around shared economic, political and health challenges. The current Chairman of G20 is King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. 

World Earth Day: Earth Day or International Mother Earth Day is observed globally on 22 April every year. Earth Day was founded by American senator Gaylord Nelson for environmental education. It is being celebrated since 1970. On the World Earth Day, 2016, Paris Agreement was signed within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC). It was signed by more than 120 countries. The day was proposed by peace activist John McConnell in 1970. The day is celebrated by World Earth Day Network. Around 193 countries join the celebrations. Earth Day was renamed officially by the UN in 2009 as International Mother Earth Day.

Recently, World Earth Day 2020 marked its 50th Anniversary of the day since it started being observed in 1970. This year the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day is celebrated through digital mobilizations to demonstrate environmental protection. The theme of Earth Day 2020: Climate Action.

World Creativity and Innovation Day: This day is observed globally on 21st April every year by the United Nations. The day aims to create awareness about the importance of innovation and creativity to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). They are also called the Global goals.

BRO: It refers to Border Roads Organisation. BRO was founded in 1960 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It was established for coordinating the speedy development of a network of roads in the North and the North Eastern border regions of the country. It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence. It has diversified into a large spectrum of construction and development works comprising airfields, building projects, defence works and tunneling and has endeared itself to the people.

Recently, BRO has constructed and opened a new permanent bridge on the Ravi river that connects the Kasowal enclave in Punjab with the rest of the country. The permanent bridge constructed by BRO under Project Chetak was completed much ahead of its schedule.

Ravi River: It is one of the five tributaries of the Indus River. The other 4 tributaries are Jhelum, Chenab, Beas and Sutlej. Punjab got its name from these five tributaries that give the name Punjab meaning “Five Rivers”. River Ravi is also known as Iravati. It rises in the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh (India) and flows to the Pakistani border and along it for more than 80 km before entering Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Under the Indus Water Treaty 1960, the waters of Ravi and other five rivers are divided between India and Pakstan. Under the treaty, water of the Eastern rivers - Sutlej, Beas and Ravi was allocated to India for unrestricted use while waters of the Indus and its western tributaries (Jhelum and Chenab) was allocated to Pakistan.

The treaty was brokered by World Bank.

Iran: Iran also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan,to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. The capital of Iran is Tehran. The currency used there is Iranian Rial. The current President of Iran is Hassan Rouhani.

  Recently, Iran’s first military satellite was launched successfully. It was announced in a statement by the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran. The satellite named ‘Noor’ was launched in the early morning from the central desert. The news of the successful launch and that satellite has reached the orbit was reported.

Italy has signed the International Solar Alliance under the amended ISA Framework Agreement.

Highlights:

  • The amendments to the Framework Agreement of the ISA entered into force, opening its Membership to all Member States of the UN.

  • The External Affairs Ministry said the Framework Agreement was signed by Italy's Ambassador, Vincenzo De Luca.

  • The signed copies of the Agreement were received by Additional Secretary (ER), as the representative of External Affairs Ministry, which is the depositary of ISA Framework Agreement.

  • Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met Italian Ambassador to India Vincenzo De Luca and welcomed Italy's accession to International Solar Alliance.

  • They also discussed Italy's G20 presidency and Vaccine Maitri.

  • The International Solar Alliance was launched jointly by the Indian Prime Minister and the French President during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21, in Paris.

Aim:

It aims to contribute to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement through rapid and massive deployment of solar energy.

The International Day of Happiness was celebrated on March 20, 2021.

  • The day is observed every year across the world to mark the importance of happiness in the lives of people.

  • This year, the day is being celebrated under the Theme: “Happiness for All, Forever” which signifies the importance of happiness.

Background:

  • As per the United Nations, this day is "celebrated as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world."

  • Ever since 2013, the UN has been celebrating the day to spread awareness among people around the globe.

  • The observance of the day was started following several years of campaigning by the United Nations adviser Jayme Illien who grew up in a Mother Teresa’s orphanages in Kolkata.

  • He got the inspiration to end the global inequality through his years in orphanage and other life experiences.

  • The resolution to observe the day was passed on July 12, 2012.

  • This resolution to mark the day was first initiated by Bhutan.

  • Bhutan had emphasized the importance of “National Happiness” over “National Income” since 1970s.

  • The country had also adopted thereby adopting the “Gross National Happiness” over the “Gross National Product”.

Gross National Happiness (GNH):

  • Gross National Happiness (GNH) is also called as Gross Domestic Happiness.

  • GNH is a philosophy which guides the government of Bhutan.

  • It comprises of an index that is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population.

  • The Gross National Happiness Index is instituted as the goal in the constitution of Bhutan which enacted in July 2008.

The Parliament of Spain recently passed and voted in favour of law that legalizes the euthanasia on March 18, 2021 thereby making the country one among few nations that allow the terminally-ill or gravely-injured patients to end their life.

Key Points:

  • This law was drafted following the public pressure which was generated due to several high-profile cases while most specific case being that of Ramon Sampedro whose situation was immortalised in Oscar-winning 2004 film titled “The Sea Inside”. Thus, the parliament voted in favour of the law.

  • The law was passed with 202 votes in favour, 141 votes against and two abstentions in the chamber of 350-seat.

  • Following this, Spain has become the fourth European nation which has decriminalise the assisted.

  • The other four EU Nation include Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.

About the legislation

  • The Spanish legislation will allow the passive euthanasia in which the medical staff will intentionally end a life to relieve the suffering.

  • This will be done by halting the life serving medical treatment.

  • The law has also allowed the assisted suicide in which the patient will carry out the procedure of ending life.

  • In order to go through this procedure, the patient must be a Spanish national or a legal resident.

  • The patients must also be “fully aware and conscious” while making the request.

  • The request needs to be submitted in writing two time with the gap of 15 days.

  • The request of the patients can be rejected by the doctor if the requirements are not met.

  • Further, the request must be approved by the second medic and by the evaluation body.

Resolution 46/L1, 2021: India has abstained from voting on a resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that makes a wide-ranging and damaging commentary on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

Background:

  • This is the eighth resolution on Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council since the end of the war against the LTTE in 2009.

  • India’s record of voting on these resolutions shows:-

  • The ups and downs of New Delhi-Colombo relations,

  • The pressures on coalitions in India,

  • The influence of politics and parties in Tamil Nadu,

  • The ebb and flow of regional and international geopolitics.

  • Key Points of Resolution 46/L1:

  • It has decided, among other things, to “strengthen” the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to collect evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountability processes for gross violations of human rights in Sri Lanka.

  • It not only aims to collect, consolidate, analyze and preserve information as well as evidence and develop possible strategies for future accountbility processes for gross violations of human rights but also to advocate for victims and survivors and to support relevant judicial and other proceedings, including in Member states, with competent jurisdiction.

  • It refers to “persistent” lack of accountability for rights abuses committed through the years by “all parties” in Sri Lanka, including the LTTE.

  • Most seriously, it expresses a lack of confidence in the ability of the present government in Colombo to address the shortcomings.

  • Among the 14 countries that abstained were Japan, Indonesia, Bahrain and Nepal. Among the 11 that voted against were China, Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, and Venezuela.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC):

  • The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR, herein CHR) that had been strongly criticized for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members.

  • The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and engages the UN’s special body.

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.

  • The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in United Nations member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.

World Sparrow Day: World Sparrow Day is observed on March 20 every year across the globe to raise awareness about the bird.

  • The need for marking this day was felt due to the tremendous decrease in its population. The house sparrow is on the verge of extinction.

  • The initiative was started by Nature Forever Society (NFS) of India, founded by Mohammed Dilawar, an Indian conservationist.

  • He started his work helping the house sparrow in Nashik.

  • He was also named one of the Heroes of the Environment for 2008 by Time magazine for his efforts.

  • The first World Sparrow Day was celebrated in 2010 in different parts of the world.

India and Japan: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently gave its approval for Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) signed between Japan and India for bilateral cooperation in the field of water resources.

Highlights

  • According to official statement, MoC was signed in between ‘Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation’ under ‘Ministry of Jal Shakti’ of government of India and ‘Water & Disaster Management Bureau’ under ‘Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism’ of government of Japan.

Aim

  • It aims at achieving improved irrigation facilities, water security, and sustainability in water resources development.

Significance of the MoC

  • MoC was signed with the objective of developing a long-term cooperation in the field of water and Delta management.

  • This will help in increasing exchange of information, knowledge and technology.

  • It would also help in developing cooperation in the field of water technology.

  • The cooperation would increase exchange of knowledge, technology and information.

  • This will also help in exchanging scientific allied experience and implementation of joint projects between both the countries.

  • It will also help in achieving water security, improved irrigation facility and sustainability across the water resources development.

Japan:

  • Japan is an island country located in East Asia. It is made up of 6,852 islands.

  • The Japanese name for Japan is Nihon or Nippon which means sun origin.

  • It is bordered by the Sea of Japan to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and spans from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Philippine Sea in the south.

  • Tokyo is the capital of Japan.

  • The currency used there is Japanese Yen.

  • The current Prime Minister of Japan is Yoshihide Suga.

President Sassou Nguesso: Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso has been declared the winner in the recent presidential election.

  • He is set for another five-year term after getting over 88% of the vote.

  • The Election Day was marred by the death of his main opponent, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas.

  • President Nguesso has been in power for 36 years is one of the world’s longest-serving presidents, earning him the nickname “emperor".

  • The former paratrooper first became president in 1979 and remained in power for three consecutive terms.

Congo:

  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DROC, or simply either Congo or the Congo, and historically Zaire, is a country in Central Africa.

  • Congo achieved independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960 under the name Republic of the Congo.

  • Congolese nationalist Patrice Lumumba was elected the first Prime Minister, while Joseph Kasa-Vubu became the first President.

  • The Capital of Congo is Kinshasa.

  • The currency used here is Congolese franc.

Bangladesh: It is a country which is bordered by the Indian states of West Bengal to the west and north, Assam to the north, Meghalaya to the north and northeast, and Tripura and Mizoram to the east. To the southeast, it shares a boundary with Myanmar (Burma). The southern part of Bangladesh opens into the Bay of Bengal. Its Capital is Dhaka. The currency used her is Bangladeshi Taka. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh is Sheikh Hasina.

Recently, Bangladesh celebrated 50 years of its Independence and National Day on 26 March, coinciding with the grand celebration of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, was born on March 17, 1920.

  • The high-profile celebrations will be attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the heads of state and government from Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, under separate schedules in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Bangladesh was proclaimed as an independent nation by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and this led to Bangladesh Liberation War when war ensued between Pakistan and Bangladesh liberation forces with Indian support.

Stad Ship Tunnel: The world's first Ship Tunnel dubbed as “Stad Ship Tunnel” is to be constructed in Norway.

Key Points:

  • It will be constructed by the Norwegian Coastal Administration under the mountainous Stadhavet peninsula in northwestern Norway.

  • The works on the bridge will commence in 2022 and is expected to get completed by 2025-26.

  • This project is a part of the National Transport Plan of the Norwegian Government for the period 2014-2023.

  • Its aim is to identify projects to transfer 25 percent of all goods transported by road to sea and rail roads.

About the Tunnel:

  • The tunnel will be 49 metres (161 ft) high and 36 metres (118 ft) wide.

  • The 1.7 km tunnel will be able to handle ships of up to 16,000 tonnes and to help ships navigate through the rough and treacherous Stradhavet Sea in northwestern Norway.

  • It is estimated to cost at least 2.8 billion Norwegian kroner (NZ$460 million) the construction of this ship tunnel.

Norway:

  • Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords.

  • Norway is bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east, and the Skagerrak strait to the south, with Denmark on the other side. Norway has an extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea.

  • The Capital of Norway is Oslo.

  • The currency used here is Norwegian krone.

  • The current Prime Minister of Norway is Erna Solberg.

International Current Affairs - March 2021

India and Myanmar: India and Myanmar signed and exchanged 10 memorandum of understanding (MoUs). The Mous were signed and exchanged after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Myanmar President U Win Myint at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Most of the agreements were aimed at developing Myanmar’s Rakhine state. This MoU is the first of its kind of government to government (G2G) agreement signed by Myanmar with a cooperation partner focussed on socio-economic development and livelihood initiatives in Rakhine State.

The agreements included an MoU on ‘Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking’.

An agreement regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP) was also signed between the two sides. 

Rakhine State: Rakhine is a province of Myanmar. It is considered the homeland of the Rohingya community. The Rohingya are one of Myanmar's many ethnic minorities. According to UN estimates, The Rakhine state has witnessed a lot of violence in the past and scores of Rohingyas had fled the state facing persecution. In August 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundred thousands  fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.

South Sudan: South Sudan, officially known as the Republic of South Sudan is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa. It gained independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011, making it the most recent sovereign state with widespread recognition. Its Capital is Juba. The Currency used here is South Sudanese pound.

Recently, In February 2020, Riek  Machar was resworn as vice president following a peace agreement with Salva Kiir, the current President of South Sudan. He is formally rejoining the government in a boost for a peace deal aimed at ending more than two years of conflict. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon is a politician who served as the inaugural Vice President of South Sudan from its independence in 2011 until his dismissal in 2013.

Taliban: The Taliban who refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) are a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement and military organization in Afghanistan. It is the main insurgent group that has been fighting against the Afghan government and American troops. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to overthrow the Taliban. The leader of Taliban is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada who is a hardline religious scholar. The Taliban have been in direct talks with the US since 2018, with both sides looking to end the long-running conflict that has cost tens of thousands of lives.

Slovenia: Slovenia, a country in Central Europe. It is situated in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. The Capital of Slovenia is Ljubljana. The currency used here is Euro. The current President of Slovenia is Borut Pahor.

Recently, leader of Slovenian Democratic Party, Janez Jansa became the new Prime Minister of Slovenia.Slovenia’s parliament confirmed Janez Jansa as its new prime minister. He will be replacing the centre-left Prime Minister Marjan Sarec. PM Marjan Sarec had resigned from his post in January 2020.

61 year old Jansa led the Slovenian government from 2004 to 2008 and from 2012 to 2013. He is an ally of Hungarian PM Viktor Orban.

BRAC: It is an acronym for Building Resources Across Communities. It was initially known as Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee and then as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. BRAC is an international development organisation based in Bangladesh. It is the largest non-governmental organisation founded by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in 1972 after the independence of Bangladesh. It was established as a small-scale relief and rehabilitation project to help returning war refugees after the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. BRAC was registered under the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh in order to receive foreign donations. It is present in all 64 districts of Bangladesh as well as 11 other countries in Asia, Africa, and the America. BRAC runs a university, a bank, insurance company, a seed company, among other things. They have one lakh full-time staff, 8,000 of whom work outside Bangladesh. It has been working in areas like poverty alleviation through extending loans to the poor, gender equality, healthcare, nutrition, environment and employment among many other things.

BRAC has retained its position as the top ranking NGO for 2020 in the world for the fifth consecutive year. The rankings were announced by the Geneva-based organization NGO Adviser. It publishes the rankings every year based on publicly available data for the top 500 global NGOs.The rankings by the Public Adviser are based on the impact, innovation, governance and sustainability of the NGO.

BRACK recently announced a new 2030 strategy with the goal to make lives of 250 million people self-sustainable. 

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It is located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The capital of Srilanka are Colombo and Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the legislative capital while Colombo is the largest city and center of commerce. The currency used here is Sri Lankan rupee. The current President and Prime Minister of Srilanka are Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa respectively.   

Recently, the 20th Session of the Senior Officials' Meeting (SoM) was held in in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The meeting was chaired by Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha.

During the meet, it was decided that Sri Lanka will lead the science, technology, and innovation sector in Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). This was agreed during the finalization of areas of cooperation among BIMSTEC Member States. It was also decided that a BIMSTEC Facility for Technology Transfer will be opened in Sri Lanka in the future. Srilanka will also appoint a Director to the BIMSTEC Secretariat in June this year.

Malaysia: It is a Southeast Asian country occupying parts of the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo. The capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur. The currency used here is Malaysian ringgit.

Recently, former Home Affairs Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, backed by the corruption-tarnished former governing party, was sworn in by the king. Mr Yassin was selected as the new Prime Minister after the abrupt resignation of 94-year-old Mahathir Mohamad. Mr. Mahathir, who was the world's oldest elected leader, had returned to power in 2018 in a coalition with his old rival Anwar Ibrahim.

UNSC: It is an abbreviation for United Nations Security Council. UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. It is charged with ensuring international peace and security, recommending that the General Assembly accept new members to the United Nations, and approving any changes to its charter. It is headquartered in New York, New York, United States. It was founded on 24th October 1945. Its function includes the establishment of peacekeeping operations and international sanctions as well as the authorization of military actions through resolutions. It is the only body of the United Nations (UN) with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states. The council held its first session on 17 January 1946. The Security Council comprises of 15 members out of which five members are permanent and 10 are non-permanent members elected for a period of two years.

Recently, China took over the presidency of UN Security Council for March 2020. It has taken over the presidency with a pledge of strengthening solidarity and cooperation with all the parties and to maintain international peace and security. The presidency of the Council rotates among each of its 15 members every month

Israel: Israel formally known as the State of Israel  is a country in Western Asia. It is located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It is regarded as the biblical Holy Land by Jews, Muslims and Christians. Its most sacred sites are in Jerusalem which is also the Capital of Israel. The currency used here is Israeli Shekel. The current President and Prime Minister of Israel are Reuven Rivlin Prime Minister and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in Israel's general election which was held on 2nd March 2020. The early results put him ahead of his rival Benny Gantz.

70 year old, Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel's longest-serving leader. He is seeking a record fifth term, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009.

WHO: It is an abbreviation for World Health Organization. WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with world public health. It was formed on 7 April 1948. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The current Chief of WHO is Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

 Recently, WHO has officially declared the coronavirus outbreak as GLOBAL PANDEMIC. This was announced after the spread and severity of the outbreak of COVID-19. The new coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries and led to tens of thousands of cases and is still rising. 

UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged world governments to urgently work towards detecting, isolating and treating COVID-19 cases and tracing COVID-19 patients' contacts so as to protect and train health care workers and prepare hospitals and also to communicate with members of the public about the risks of the disease and how to protect themselves.

Pandemic: Pandemic disease is an epidemic that has spread world wide. It is generally classified as epidemics first, which is the rapid spread of a disease across a particular region or regions. COVID-19 began as an epidemic in China, before making its way around the world in a matter of months and becoming a pandemic. 

UNSC: It refers to United Nations Security Council. UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations (UN). It is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions. It is headquartered in New York, United States. It was founded on 24 October 1945.

Recently, UNCS unanimously approved a United States' resolution on the recent peace agreement to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan. The agreement deal was signed between the United States and the Taliban February 29, 2020 in Doha, Qatar.   As a part of the agreement the US military has begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The complete withdrawal by US will be done only after Taliban sticks to its part of the deal.

The UNSC resolution had urged the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to advance the peace process by participating in intra-Afghan negotiations through a diverse and inclusive negotiating team composed of Afghan political and civil society leaders, including women.

Afghanistan: Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country in Asia. It is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south; Iran to the west; Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north; and China to the northeast. Its Capital is Kabul and the currency used here is Afghan afghani. The President of Afghanistan is Ashraf Ghani.

Recently, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani was sworn in as the Afghanistan President for the secont term. He was sworn in as the President of Afghanistan at a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on Monday afternoon.  Ghani was declared as the winner of the election held in September 2019.

Meanwhile his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who disputed the vote, held a parallel ceremony surrounded by hundreds of supporters.

Ukraine: It is a country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the north-east; Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west; and Romania, Moldova, and the Black Sea to the south. The Capital of Ukraine is Kyiv. The currency used here is Ukrainian hryvnia. The current President of Ukraine is Volodymyr Zelensky.

Recently, the Parliament of Ukraine approved Denys Shmygal as a new prime minister of the country. Shmygal succeeds Oleksiy Honcharuk who resigned after he was caught criticizing the President. 44 year old Denys Shmygal is the nominee of Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Ukraine. He was earlier serving as the Deputy prime minister in charge of regional development.

Bangladesh: It is a country which is bordered by the Indian states of West Bengal to the west and north, Assam to the north, Meghalaya to the north and northeast, and Tripura and Mizoram to the east. To the southeast, it shares a boundary with Myanmar (Burma). The southern part of Bangladesh opens into the Bay of Bengal. Its Capital is Dhaka. The currency used her is Bangladeshi Taka. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh is Sheikh Hasina.

Recently, Bangladesh celebrated the birth centenary of its founder President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. However any public gatherings were barred for the event due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The day marks the beginning of the yearlong celebration of the birth centenary named ‘Mujib Barsho’ in Bangladesh and across the world. The video message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also broadcasted on the occasion. Prime Minister of India was expected to attend as a chief guest but was cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: He was a Bangladeshi politician and statesman. He was a leader in the push for political autonomy for then-East Pakistan, eventually becoming a central figure in the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh. He was known as Sheikh Mujib. He was also known as Bangabandhu or a Friend of Bengal. He served as the first president of Bangladesh and later as its prime minister. He was murdered along with most of his family members in a military coup on Aug. 15, 1975. The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh sheikh Hasina is the eldest daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Iraq: It is officially the Republic of Iraq. It is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital city of Iraq is Baghdad. The currency used her is Iraqui Dinar. The current President or Iraq is Barham Salih.

Recently, the 8th President of Iraq Barham Salih apponted Adnan al-Zurfi as the new Prime Minister of Iraq. He will replace Mohammed Allawi.

Adnan al-Zurfi (54) is a former governor of the holy Shia city of Najaf heads the Nasr parliamentary grouping of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. it is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Egypt and Israel by the Gulf of Aqaba. Its Capital city is Riyadh. The currency used here is Saudi riyal.

Recently, Saudi Arabia accepted has accepted a proposal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold an "extraordinary" virtual G20 Summit. His Highness, Mohammed bin Salman agreed to the exercise at the level of G20 leaders. At present Saudi Arabia is the current chair of the G20 bloc. This decision was taken amid the fear of coronavirus pandemic. The G20 leaders' summit will be held in March 2020. 

G20 Summit: G20 refers to Group of Twenty. It is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union (EU). The heads of the G20 nations held summits twice in 2009 and twice in 2010. Since the November 2011 Cannes summit, G20 summits have been held annually.

International Day of Happiness: The International Day of Happiness is celebrated globally on 20 March every year. It was conceptualized and founded by Jayme Illien to advance a new paradigm which achieves the UN's global goals and the happiness, wellbeing, and freedom of all life on earth. The day aims to inspire and advance the global happiness movement. International Happiness Day was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

The theme of International Day of Happiness 2020 is  "Happiness For All, For Ever". The Theme aims at focusing on what we have in common, rather than what divides us.  The United Nations (UN) on this day called all 206 nations to adopt “Ten Steps to Global Happiness”. The United Nations also released the World Happiness Index. Finland topped the ranking.

Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA): The Union Cabinet, recently chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) between India and Mauritius.

Key highlights of India-Mauritius CECPA are as follows:

  1. The India-Mauritius CECPA is the first trade Agreement to be signed by India with an African country.
  2. The main purpose is to liberalize norms to boost two-way commerce between the two countries.
  3. The CECPA between India and Mauritius will cover 310 export items for India, while 615 products for Mauritius
  4. The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Telecom, Financial services, Customs Procedures and Cooperation in other Areas.
  5. CECPA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries.
  6. Both sides have also agreed to negotiate an Automatic Trigger Safeguard Mechanism (ATSM) for a limited number of highly sensitive products within two years of the Signing of the Agreement.

World Solar Bank: The International Solar Alliance (ISA) have planned to launch the World Solar Bank (WSB) at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow that is scheduled for November 2021.

Key points of WSB are as follows:

  1. The development of the WSB will support India’s attempt to secure its leadership in the climate arena.
  2. The development of the bank is significant because the green finance will be one of the priority themes at the climate meet called COP-26.
  3. COP-26 will be organized in the backdrop of US re-joining the Paris climate accord.
  4. The headquarters of the World Solar Bank is expected to be set up in India. It will be first multilateral development bank (MDB) that will be set up in India.
  5. The WSB have planned to disburse around $50 billion to the member countries of ISA over next 10 years.
  6. The WSB will be launched because many member countries of the ISA face the challenge of raising finances on their own.

About International Solar Alliance (ISA):

  1. The ISA is an alliance of 121 countries initiated by India, most of them being sunshine countries, which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  2. The alliance was founded on 30 November 2015 climate change conference in Paris.
  3. It is the first treaty-based international government organization which is headquartered in Gurugram, India. It is the nodal agency to implement the global electricity grid plan of India called “One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG)”.
  4. The current leader of ISA is Upendra Tripathy.

About OSOWOG:

  1. The One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) was launched with the objective of transferring the solar power generated in one region to feed the electricity demands of another region.
  2. Under the OSOWOG vision, India aims to replicate its global solar leadership through phased development of a single globally connected solar electricity grid.
  3. This would have multiple benefits such as Low cost, Zero pollution

Sama Lukonde: The Congo President Felix Tshisekedi on February 15 appointed Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde Kyenge, director-general of Gécamines (General Quarries and Mines) as the new DRC Prime Minister.

The 43-year-old Tshisekedi is a former sports minister and an ex-party member of the former governor of Katanga Moïse Katumbi, who recently postured his political lean in support of the President.

Congo: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as Congo-Kinshasa, DR Congo, the DROC, or simply either Congo or the Congo, and historically Zaire, is a country in Central Africa. Congo achieved independence from Belgium on 30 June 1960 under the name Republic of the Congo. Congolese nationalist Patrice Lumumba was elected the first Prime Minister, while Joseph Kasa-Vubu became the first President. The Capital of Congo is Kinshasa. The currency used here is Congolese franc.

Anti-extremism bill: The lower house of the French Parliament recently voted in favour of a law to battle “Islamist separatism” that is billed by the government as a riposte to religious groups attempting to undermine the secular state. This major decision was taken  after the recent beheading in France.

The centrist party of President Emmanuel Macron hugely supported the law with 347 National Assembly lawmakers voting in favour, 151 against and 65 abstaining.

The text will now be submitted to the upper house Senate, where Macron’s party does not hold a majority.

France: France officially the French Republic is a country consisting of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. It is historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world. France has also played a highly significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe. The capital of France is Paris. The currency of France is Euro, CFP franc. The current President of France is Emmanuel Macron. The current Prime Minister is Jean Castex.

International Mother Language Day: International Mother Tongue Day: The International Mother Tongue Day (IMLD) is observed on 21st February every year globally.

The objective of this day is to promote linguistic and cultural goodwill among the diverse population. It aims to foster unity among various nations as it promotes the preservation and protection of all languages used by people all over the world.

The theme of the 2021 IMLD is “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society,”.

This year’s observance is a call on policymakers, teachers and educators, parents and families to scale up their commitment to multilingual education, and inclusion in education to advance education recovery in the context of COVID-19.

History of IMLD:

  1. The idea of celebrating International Mother Tongue Day is an initiative of Bangladesh.
  2. It was approved at the UNESCO General Conference in 1999 and has been observed all over the world since 2000.
  3. On 16 May 2007 the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon the Member States "to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world".
  4. The date pays tribute to the students in Bangladesh who gave their life on this day in 1952 for the recognition of their language 'Bangla' as one of the two national languages.
  5. The police gunned down four students of Dhaka University Abul Barkat, Abdul Jabbar, Sofiur Rahman, Abdus Salam, when they marched towards the East Bengal Legislative Assembly breaking the curfew.
  6. In Bangladesh, this day is celebrated as Shaheed Day commemorating the sacrifice of the martyrs for the language of Bengali.
  7. On February 29, 1956, Bengali was recognized as the second official language of Pakistan under article 214(1) of the constitution which states "The state language of Pakistan shall be Urdu and Bengali."

What do you mean by mother language or the mother tongue?

  1. The mother language or the mother tongue is the first language (also native language) or languages that a person has learned from birth.
  2. Children who are brought up speaking two languages have more than one native language and are called bilingual.
  3. A child’s mother language is part of his personal, social, and cultural identity.

Significance of Mother Tongue:

  1. Linguistic diversity is increasingly imperiled as more and more languages disappear. One language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it a whole cultural and intellectual heritage.
  2. Real values of any culture can only be conserved if there is an honor for mother tongue and heritage.
  3. All the scripts and religious books are composed in local languages which show us the right path to living life.

Quote: ¨If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.     – Nelson Mandela

Minister for Loneliness: Japan has recently appointed the first ever Minister for Loneliness amid the increasing suicide rates in Japan.

This step has been taken by the government of Japan as a response to the all-time high suicide rate of the country.

It was for the very first time in the last 11 years that Japan’s suicide rate jumped up.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga added a minister of loneliness to his Cabinet earlier this month, following the example of the UK, which in 2018 became the first country to create a similar role.

He appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto as the country's first Minister of Loneliness. Sakamoto is also in charge of combating the nation's falling birth rate and revitalising regional economies, for the new portfolio.

What is the current suicide rate in Japan?

  • In 2020, Japan’s suicide rate rose with 20,919 people taking their lives according to data by the National Police Agency.

What is the cause of the rise in sicide rate in Japan?

  • Most experts believe that the problem of escalating suicides in Japan is tied to the country’s culture of loneliness. They are as follows:

Kodokushi:

  • The total population of Japan holds a huge number of people belonging to the senescent category.
  • More than 20% of the country’s population is more than 65 years and above, which is the highest proportion for that category in the world.
  • This has created a huge section of middle-aged and older people who feel they have no one to turn to for help and company.
  • Since most ageing people do not socialise much, many of them die alone, with their bodies being discovered a long time after their death. The whole phenomenon is known as ‘kodokushi’, which means ‘lonely death’.
  • The people in Japan have the term “KODOKU”. It is a common word in the Japanese local language used to describe both- solitude and loneliness.

Karoshi:

  • Japan is one of the countries having the longest working hours so the people hardly have any time   time to spend with their family or friends to get rejuvenated or practice their hobbies.
  • In fact, Japan has a term for sudden occupational mortality — ‘karoshi’, which means death due to overwork.

Hikikomori:

  • The culture of self-isolation has spiralled to such extremes in the country that there are about one million people who live in absolute self-imposed confinement for many years with no contact with the outside world. These modern-day hermits are called ‘hikikomori’.

Note: According to the Japanese Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry, Japan has over 13 million people living alone.

The ministry estimated that by 2040, about 39% of Japan's 120 million people will live alone.

Japan: Japan is an island country located in East Asia. It is made up of 6,852 islands. The Japanese name for Japan is Nihon or Nippon which means sun origin. It is bordered by the Sea of Japan to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and spans from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Philippine Sea in the south. Tokyo is the capital of Japan. The currency used there is Japanese Yen. The current Prime Minister of Japan is Yoshihide Suga.

Least Developed Country (LDC): The United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP) has recently recommended graduation of Bangladesh from the category of Least Developed Country (LDC).

The recommendation was made by CDP as Bangladesh has fulfilled the eligibility criteria in terms of per capita income, human assets and economic and environmental vulnerability.

This is the second consecutive time since 2018 that the CDP has made recommendation for Bangladesh for graduation from LDC category.

The proposal will be sent to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for endorsement in June to be finally approved by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in September this year.

Bangladesh will get time upto 2026 to prepare for the transition to the status of a developing country.

Usually countries are given three years for transition but this year due to the Corona pandemic, Bangladesh has been given five years for the process.

How is the LDC of a country decided by CDP?

  • The CDP decides on the LDC status of a country based on three criteria which are:
  1. Per capita income,
  2. Human assets index
  3. Economic vulnerability index
  • A country must achieve at least two of the three criteria at two consecutive triennial reviews to be considered for graduation.

Impact of Graduation from LDC:

Graduation from LDC has double edged impact on countries.

  • On the one hand certain preferential provisions in export, provision of subsidy to agriculture and infant industries and access to climate finance are likely to cease after transition from LDC.
  • On the other hand, enhanced confidence of international financial bodies, improved credit rating and higher FDI are expected to benefit Bangladesh after the transition period is completed.

Bangladesh: It is a country which is bordered by the Indian states of West Bengal to the west and north, Assam to the north, Meghalaya to the north and northeast, and Tripura and Mizoram to the east. To the southeast, it shares a boundary with Myanmar (Burma). The southern part of Bangladesh opens into the Bay of Bengal. Its Capital is Dhaka. The currency used her is Bangladeshi Taka. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh is Sheikh Hasina.

Pakistan in Grey List of FATF: The Global money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recently decided to keep Pakistan on its terrorism financing “grey list”.

FATF President Marcus Pleyer said that Pakistan must demonstrate in taking action against UN-designated terrorists and their associates.

It also said that once Pakistan completes 3 unfulfilled tasks, the FATF will verify and take decision on Islamabad's present status in June plenary.

In its plenary held in October last year, the FATF had kept Pakistan on the grey list citing its failure to fulfill 6 out of 27 obligations of the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.

Pakistan has been on the grey list since June 2018.

About FATF:

The FATF is an inter-governmental body set up in 1989 to combat money laundering, terror financing and other related threats to the international financial system.At present, it has 39 members.

Churmosquagogue: A new sacred building is coming up in the heart of Berlin, Germany.

It is called the House of One or, colloquially, Churmosquagogue, it incorporates a church, a mosque and a synagogue.

Churmosquagogue is coming up with the aim of bringing Christians, Jews and Muslims to a single place of worship.

The foundation stone will be laid on May 27 by people of these faiths.

A meeting space at the center of the building will be open to people of other faiths and world views as well as the secular urban society.

The House of One is coming up on the site of the old St Peter’s Church, which was damaged in World War II and completely demolished by the government of East Germany in 1964.

Germany: Germany, officially Federal Republic of Germany, German Deutschland or Bundesrepublik Deutschland, country of north-central Europe.  It has over 2 millennia of history. The capital of Germany is Berlin. The currency used here is Euro.

Irakli Garibashvili: The Parliament of Georgia recently confirmed Irakli Garibashvili as Prime Minister along with a vote of confidence in the cabinet Garibashvili put forward.

Garibashvili was defense minister in Gakharia’s Cabinet and is a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Garibashvili pledged to create a long-term development strategy for Georgia in his first one hundred days in office.

First, on the agenda, Garibashvili will continue the essential work of the government to ably manage the pandemic and accelerate the focus on rebuilding the economy while continuing to strengthen Georgia’s security and democratic institutions.

Georgia: Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, is a former Soviet Republic. It is bounded on the north and northeast by Russia, on the east and southeast by Azerbaijan, on the south by Armenia and Turkey, and on the west by the Black Sea. Its Capital is Tbilisi. The currency used here is Georgian lari. The current President of Georgia is Salome Zourabichvili.

Merchant Digitization Summit 2021: The Government of India (GoI), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), and UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA) recently hosted Merchant Digitization Summit 2021: Towards AatmaNirbhar (Self Reliance) Bharat with special focus on Himalayan Regions, North East Regions and Aspirational Districts of India.

About:

  • The Summit brought together leaders from the public and private sectors for the Responsible Merchant Digitization Summit to accelerate responsible digitization of merchants in India's North-Eastern and Himalayan regions, and Aspirational districts.

  • This Summit is part of the series of Learning Exchange amongst all States and Union Territories.

  • The Summit was organized with technical assistance of Intellecap.

About BTCA:

  • The Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA) which is based at the United Nations (UN) is a partnership of governments, companies and international organizations that accelerates the transition from cash to responsible digital payments.

  • The Alliance was created in 2012. It was launched by the United Nations Capital Development Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citigroup, the Ford Foundation, the Omidyar Network, and Visa Inc.

  • It has 75 members which are committed to digitizing payments.

  • The Alliance Secretariat works with members on their journey to digitize payments by:

  1. Providing advisory services based on their priorities.

  2. Sharing action-oriented research and fostering peer learning on responsible practices.

  3. Conducting advocacy at national, regional and global level.

Note: India became a member of the Better Than Cash Alliance in 2015 to digitize payments to achieve financial inclusion and to share success stories from Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, the world's largest financial inclusion program.

FICCI: It refers to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. FCCI is an association of business organizations in India. It was established in 1927, on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi by GD Birla and Purshottamdas Thakurdas. It is the largest, oldest and the apex business organization in India. It provides a platform for networking and consensus building within and across sectors and is the first port of call for Indian industry, policy makers and the international business community. It is headquartered in New Delhi. The current President of FCCI is Uday Shankar.

World Hearing Day: World Hearing Day is held on 3 March annually by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The day is observed to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.

This occasion aims to spread awareness about action that can be taken to protect the auditory nerves and adopt preventive measures.

The first event was held in 2007.

Before 2016 it was known as International Ear Care Day.

The theme of World Hearing Day 2021 is Hearing care for ALL! Screen, Rehabilitate, Communicate.

World Hearing Day 2021 marked the launch of the first-ever World Report on Hearing (WRH). It is a global call for action to address hearing loss and ear diseases across the life course

The Report has been developed in response to the World Health Assembly resolution (WHA70.13), adopted in 2017 as a means of providing guidance for Member States to integrate ear and hearing care into their national health plans.

The report proposes a set of key H.E.A.R.I.N.G. interventions that must be delivered through a strengthened health system to realize the vision of ‘Integrated people-centered ear and hearing care’ (IPC-EHC).

The Scenario in India:

  • According to a 2018 WHO report, 2% of India's population, mainly children, suffer from the condition of Otitis Media.

  • The disabling hearing loss affected 2.9% of the population and was noted to effect communication, education and work.

  • The prevalence of total hearing loss, unilateral & bilateral was found to be as high as 9.93%.

  • National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness will target over 6% of India’s population with Disabling Hearing Loss.

  • The program was launched in 2006.

WHO: It is an acronym for World Health Organization. WHO was created in 1948 by member states of the United Nations (UN) as a specialized agency with a broad mandate for international public health.

It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

The main objective of WHO is "the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible standard of health."

It plays an essential role in the global governance of health and disease.

Its mission is to improve people's lives, to reduce the burdens of disease and poverty, and to provide access to responsive health care for all people.

The WHO is governed by two decision-making bodies, the World Health Assembly and the Executive Board.

The current Director-general of WHO is Tedros Adhanom.

India-Sweden Virtual Summit: The India-Sweden Virtual Summit was recently held by the Prime Minister Narendra of India Shri Modi and Prime Minister of Sweden H.E. Stefan Löfven.

Highlights:

  • At the summit, discussions were held regarding bilateral issues and other regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

  • This was the fifth interaction between the two leaders since 2015.

  • Prime Minister Modi welcomed Sweden’s decision to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

  • The leaders also noted the growing member-ship of the India-Sweden joint initiative – the Leadership Group on Indus-try Transition (LeadIT) that was launched during the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 in New York.

  • PM Modi recalled his 2018 visit to Sweden for the first India-Nordic Summit, and the India visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden in December, 2019.

  • The leaders of both the countries expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and Joint Innovation Partnership agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden in 2018.

Sweden: Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden is a Nordic country in Northern Europe. It is a Scandinavian nation with thousands of coastal islands and inland lakes, along with vast boreal forests and glaciated mountains. It borders Norway to the west and north, Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund Strait. The capital city is Stockholm. The currency used here is Swedish krona.

Additional fact: The name Sweden was derived from the Svear, or Suiones, a people mentioned as early as 98 CE by the Roman author Tacitus. The country’s ancient name was Svithiod. Stockholm has been the permanent capital since 1523.

First Strategic and Counter-Terrorism Dialogue: The National Security Adviser (NSA) of Nigeria Major General (retd.) Babagana Monguno visited New Delhi for the First Strategic and Counter-Terrorism Dialogue between India and Nigeria at the level of NSA.

Highlights:

  • Within the framework of the close and strategic partnership between India and Nigeria, the National Security Advisors held in-depth discussions on the threats and challenges faced by democratic societies from terrorism, extremism, and radicalization.

  • During the discussions, the specific areas of cooperation to enhance their fight against all forms of terrorism were identified by the two sides.

  • Both the sides reaffirmed their firm belief that there can be no justification for terrorism in any form or manifestation.

  • They also agreed to enhance their cooperation in the international arena and maintain regular contact in this area

Nigeria: Nigeria is a country in West Africa bordering Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Its southern coast is on the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean.It's capital is Abuja.

11th QS World University Rankings 2021:

  • The 11th edition of the QS World University Rankings was recently released on 4th March 2021.

  • The QS World University Rankings 2021 ranks the top 1,000 universities from around the world, covering 80 different locations.

  • There are 47 new entrants on the list.

Ranking Index :

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States (US) has retained its top position as the best university for the ninth year in a row.

  • Stanford University, the US and the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom (UK) are the second and third best University globally as per the rankings.

  • The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), IIT Bombay is ranked at 172nd position , Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore is ranked at 185th position and IIT Delhi is at 193rd position.

QS World University Rankings by Subject:

  • The QS World University Rankings by Subject are compiled to help prospective students identify the leading universities in a particular subject.

  • These rankings by Subject cover a total of 51 disciplines, grouped into five broad subject areas, namely: Engineering & Technology; Arts & Humanities; Life Sciences & Medicine; Natural Sciences; and Social Sciences and Management.

  • The QS World University Rankings by subject calculate performance are based on 4 parameters. They are as follows:

  1. Academic reputation,

  2. Employer reputation,

  3. Research impact (citations per paper)

  4. The Productivity of an institution’s research faculty.

QS World University Rankings by Subject are as follows:

  • The ranking is topped by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the United States.

  • The IIT Madras is ranked at 30th position for the Petroleum Engineering programme.

  • The IIT Bombay and IIT Kharagpur are at 41st and 44th rank positions for the Mineral and Mining engineering programme.

  • IIT Delhi is ranked at 54th position in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The OP Jindal Global University is ranked at 76th position for Law.

  • The IISc Bangalore is ranked at 78th position for Material Science and at 93rd position for Chemistry.

  • The IIM Bangalore and IIM Ahmedabad are at 76th and 80th rank respectively for business and management studies.

  • The Birla Institute of Technology and Science is ranked in the 151-200 list for Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

  • Manipal Academy of Higher Education is ranked in the top 200 for Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

International Year of Millets: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted by consensus a resolution sponsored by India and supported by over 70 nations declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

The resolution titled 'International Year of Millets 2023' was initiated by India along with Nepal, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenia Senegal and Russia.

The resolution was supported by more than 70 nations.

The main objective of this resolution is aimed at raising awareness about the health benefits of the grain and its suitability for cultivation under changing climatic conditions.

This resolution will be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN.

UNGA: It refers to the United Nations General Assembly. UNGA is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. It is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Member States of the UN, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of international issues including peace and security. It was formed in 1985. It is headquartered in New York, New York, United States. The current President of UNGA is Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

Israel and UAE: Israel recently officially received the first ever United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador Mohamed Al Khaja.

He was formally received by President Reuven Rivlin at a ceremony in Jerusalem following last year’s historic agreement between the countries to normalize ties.

The UAE was the first country to agree to establish full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state under the Abraham Accords, a pact brokered by former US President Donald Trump.

The agreement made the UAE only the third majority Arab country to form official ties with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have subsequently joined the Abraham Accords.

The agreements broke with the longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalisation with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Israel: Isreal formally known as the State of Israel is a country in Western Asia. It is located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It is regarded as the biblical Holy Land by Jews, Muslims and christians. Its most sacred sites are in Jerusalem which is also the Capital of Israel. The currency used here is Israeli Shekel. The current President and Prime Minister of Israel are Reuven Rivlin Prime Minister and Benjamin Netanyahu respectively.

UAE:It is an acronym of the United Arab Emirates. UAE is sometimes simply called the Emirates.Its Capital is Abu Dhabi. In December 1971, the UAE became a federation of six emirates - Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, and Fujairah, while the seventh emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, joined the federation in 1972. The currency used here is United Arab Emirates dirham. The current President is Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

 

China’s new Five-Year Plan:

China on 11th March 2021 formally approved the outline of its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).

The draft outline of the Five-Year Plan (FYP) and objectives through the year 2035 were passed by the National People’s Congress

 

 

Main Points:

  • The 14th five-year plan highlights a number of key strategic projects to be pursued as a priority. The projects include:

  • Construction of the first dam in Tibet on the lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo or Brahmaputra, which refers to the sections of the river in Tibet just before it enters India in Arunachal Pradesh.

  • Constructing a Sichuan-Tibet railway line near the India border.

  • The plan pushes for attaining self-sufficiency in emerging industries including the Artificial Intelligence (AI).

  • The plan also emphasized to open up the access to the key border highways including the G219 national highway which runs along entire length of India-China border in Xinjiang and Tibet region.

  • The construction of coastal nuclear power plants and power transmission channels.

  • The construction of railway from Ya’an in Sichuan to Nyingchi in Tibet is a key infrastructure project.

  • China has also called to advance the preparatory work in order to build a railway line from Xigaze in Tibet along Tibet-Nepal border.

India's Concern:

India has expressed concerns over the four previously announced dams on the upper and middle reaches.

  • In 2015 China operationalized its first hydropower project at Zangmu in Tibet, while three other dams at Dagu, Jiexu and Jiacha are being developed, all on the upper and middle reaches of the river.

  • The impact of the dams on downstream flows is not clear, and the Indian officials are monitoring flows of the river closely, both through independent assessments and using the hydrological data that China provides under a bilateral arrangement between both the countries.

  • The officials have however highlighted that, the Brahmaputra is not entirely dependent on the upstream flows. 35% of the basis is in India.

  • Now, China's approval to construct the Dams possibly on lower reaches and at Great Bend of river Brahmaputra near border is a cause of worry because this location across the border from Arunachal Pradesh in an ecologically sensitive region.

International Women's Day (IWD) 2021:

International Women's Day 2021 was celebrated on 8th of March with theme #ChooseToChallenge.

It indicates that a "challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change".

 

 

Background of IWD:

  • International Women's Day (IWD) is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8 to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women.

  • It is also a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women.

  • The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

  • IWD has occurred for well over a century with the first gathering held in 1911.

  • After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917 (the beginning of the February Revolution), IWD was made a national holiday on March 8.

  • It was subsequently celebrated on that date by the socialist movement and communist countries.

  • The holiday was associated with far-left movements and governments until its adoption by the global feminist movement in the late 1960s.

  • IWD became a mainstream global holiday following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977.

Quad Leaders’ Virtual Summit:

The first Quad Leaders' summit was held on March 12, 2021.

  • In a move to further enhance co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region, the top leaders of US, India, Japan and Australia held the first meeting of ‘Quadrilateral Security Dialogue’, also known as the Quad dialogue virtually.

Highlights:

  • Prime Ministers of India Narendra Modi, United States President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart Yoshihide Suga also participated in the event.

  • This is the first meeting between Modi and Biden since the latter was elected US president last year.

  • At the meet, Biden, in his opening remarks, said the Quad will be a vital arena for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, and he described the alliance as a new mechanism to boost cooperation and raise mutual ambition.

  • The four countries plan to establish a series of working groups that will focus on the following:

  1. Climate change

  2. Critical and emerging technologies

  3. Working towards setting of technology standards and norms

  4. Jointly developing some of the critical technologies of the future

  • The Quad summit, among other things, finalised a landmark initiative under which huge investments will be made in India to create additional production capacities to roll out a billion coronavirus vaccine doses by 2022 for exports to the Indo-Pacific region.

  • They also discussed about the opportunities to collaborate so as to ensure a safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in Indo-Pacific region.

About Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD):

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) is an Inter-governmental security forum.

  • It comprises of 4 countries namely India, the United States, Japan and Australia.

  • The forum is maintained by semi-regular summits, military drills and information between member countries.

  • The Quad grouping first came into being in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami.

  • In the year 2007, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe proposed the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.

  • The forum was joined by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President of the US Dick Cheney, Prime Minister of Australia John Howard.

  • This diplomatic and military arrangement is taken as a response to increasing Chinese economic and military power.

  • In November 2017, India, Japan, the US and Australia gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the Quad to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

  • In Manila, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and President Donald Trump of the United States agreed to revive the security pact in order to confront China militarily and diplomatically in the South China Sea.

International Current Affairs - Feburary 2021

Brexit deal: Brexit deal is also formally known as known formally as the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’. The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) has approved the exit of Britain from the European Union on January 31, 2020, ending 47 years of membership. The vote was 621 to 49 in favor of the Brexit deal that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiated with the other 27 EU leaders. UK has become the first country to ends its EU membership. UK will remain within the EU's economic arrangements until the end of the year. However, UK will not have any say in policy as it will not be a member of the EU anymore. The United Kingdom will now be required to strike a new free-trade deal with the European Union to enable a smooth transition.

Britain: Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. The capital of the United Kingdom is London. The United Kingdom, made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is an island nation in northwestern Europe. England. The currency used here is Pound Sterling. The Prime minister of United Kingdom is Boris Johnson.

Britain has unveiled a new 50 pence coin minted to mark Brexit (British exit). The coin bears the inscription “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”. The first batch of coins was presented to the Finance Minister of Britain Sajid Javid, who is also Master of the Mint.

Qatar: It is a peninsular Arab country whose terrain comprises arid desert and a long Persian (Arab) Gulf shoreline of beaches and dunes. the capital of Qatar is Doha which also lies on the coast. The currency used here is Qatari riyal.

Recently, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdelaziz Al Thani has been appointed as the new Prime Minister of Qatar. His appointment followed Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani's resignation. He was appointed by Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani through a royal decree.

Sheikh Khalid is a member of the ruling Al Thani family. He worked in the Qatar Liquefied Gas Company Limited until 2002. He then worked at the office of the First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2002 to 2006. He also served as chief of the Amiri Diwan from November 2014 until his appointment as Prime Minister.

USMCA: It refers to United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. Recently, US President Donald Trump signed USMCA North American trade pact with Canada and Mexico into law. It was signed in a ceremony at the White House.

The USMCA was crafted over years of negotiation between the three countries. It replaces the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. It also makes changes to e-commerce, intellectual property protection and dispute settlement for investors, as well as imposing tougher labour provisions, requiring reforms to Mexico’s laws.

World Cancer Day: World Cancer Day was established on 4 February 2000 at the World Cancer Summit Against Cancer for the New Millenium, which was held in Paris. February 4 is celebrated globally to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. World Cancer Day is led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008. Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that cancer cases will rise by 81% in low and middle-income countries by 2040 because of a lack of investment in prevention and care.

The 2019-2021 campaign theme this year is 'I Am and I Will'. The theme seeks raise awareness against the negative attitude and fatalistic belief that nothing can be done about cancer. It instead promotes how our personal actions can have a powerful impact on the future. It reflects on how every individual can do to raise awareness of cancer and asks to take pledge and action in fight against cancer.

World Cancer Day started a three-year campaign under the tagline of 'We can. I can.' from 2016 to 2018.

Iraq: Iraq, officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the south, Jordan to the southwest and Syria to the west. The capital, city of Iraq is Baghdad. The currency used here is Iraqi dinar.

Recently, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi was appointed as the new Prime Minister of Iraq. He was appointed by President Barhim Salih. He will be replacing Adil Abdul-Mahdi who resigned in November 2019 due to anti-government protests.

Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi is an Iraqi politician who has been serving as the current Iraqi Prime Minister since February 2020. He served twice as communications minister under Former PM Nouri al-Maliki from May 2006 until August 2007 and from 2010 to 2012.

Maldives: The Maldives, officially the Republic of Maldives, is a small independent island nation in South Asia. It is located in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 1,000 kilometres from the Asian continent. Its capital is Male. The currency used here is Maldivian rufiyaa.

Recently, Maldives rejoined the Commonwealth of Nations association and became its 54th member. This was announced by the Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland on 1 February 2020. Maldives had become its member in 1982 but had left the Commonwealth association in 2016 under President Abdulla Yameen citing that their treatment by Commonwealth was “unjust and unfair”.

This island nation was welcomed in the Commonwealth only after ensuring Maldives’ alignment with the values and principles of the Commonwealth and also after consulting other Commonwealth nations. The country will now be a part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda on 22nd June to 28th June 2020.

President Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih who was elected in 2018 had reapplied for the membership.

The "Commonwealth of Nations" is a political association of countries that were mostly former territories of the British Empire. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat which was established in 1965 supports Commonwealth member countries to achieve development, democracy and peace.

Srilanka: Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The capital of Sri Lanka is Colombo. The currency used here is Sri Lankan rupee. The President and the Prime Minister are Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa respectively.

Recently, on 4th February 2020, Srilanka celebrated its 72nd Independence Day. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa presided over the celebrations. On this day, Sri Lanka became an independent nation after getting independence from Britain. The National anthem in the event this year was only sung only in Sinhalese. Since 2016, the national anthem was sung in both Sinhalese and Tamil in the main ceremony.

United States: The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. Most of the country is located in central North America between Canada and Mexico. U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C. The currency used here is United States Dollar.

Recently, the President of United States Donald Trump has been acquitted of all impeachment charges in his US Senate impeachment trial. The US Senate acquitted President Trump on two articles of impeachment that are the abuse of power and obstruction to Congress. The votes to convict Trump fell far short of the two-thirds majority required in the 100-seat Senate to remove him from office under the U.S. Constitution. The ruling Republican party has 53 seats while the Democrats have 47. He can now concentrate on running for re-election.

Donald Trump, the 45th and incumbent president of the United States was placed on impeachment trial charging him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The impeachment trial began in the U.S. Senate on January 16, 2020, and concluded on February 5. It was only the third impeachment trial of a president in US history. In 1868, Andrew Johnson was impeached but was acquitted by the Senate. In 1974, Richard Nixon faced an inquiry, but he resigned before he could be impeached. In 1998, Bill Clinton was impeached but was acquitted by the Senate. After an impeachment inquiry between September to November 2019, President Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 18, 2019.

African Union (AU) summit: The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of fifty five member states which is located on the continent of Africa. The AU was announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya, on 9 September 1999 with an aim for the establishment of the African Union. The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was launched on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa. The objective of the AU was to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAU), established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa by 32 signatory governments. The OAU was disbanded on 9 July 2002.

The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa. The largest city in the AU is Lagos, Nigeria, while the largest urban agglomeration is Cairo, Egypt.

Recently, the 33rd edition of the African Union (AU) summit 2020 was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The summit 2020 was held with the theme "Silencing the Guns: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development".

The two-day leaders’ summit was attended by more than 35 heads of state and the government officials from across Africa as well as representatives of regional and international organizations. They focused on ways to end the regional violence, including the conflicts in South Sudan and Libya. During the summit, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa took over the chair of African Union (AU) from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also announced that the world body will provide full support for the AU’s “landmark initiative” of silencing guns to combat 3 most urgent challenges to be addressed in Africa which is eradicating poverty, tackling the climate crisis and silencing guns.

Coronavisrus: It is a deadly virus that originated in a Wuhan food market and spread across the world.In total more than 68,000 people has been infected in China, with the death toll standing at 1,665. It has crossed the number of deaths caused during the SARs outbreak. It was detected in 2019 but soon became a global concern when it started spreading at an alarming number of people. Outside of China there have been more than 500 cases in nearly 30 countries. Four people have died in France, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named Coronavirus as COVID-19. It is a short form for the virus where ‘Co’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ stands for the virus, ‘D’ stands for disease and numerical ‘19’ stands for the year it was detected.

World Radio Day: World Radio Day is celebrated on 13th of February each year. The date marks the establishment of United Nations Radio in 1946. The Day was decided by UNESCO on 3 November 2011 during its 36th conference. The first World Radio Day was celebrated in 2013. It is celebrated to raise greater awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio. The radio day is also a way of educating people, providing information, and promoting freedom of expression across cultures. Vintage radios served their purpose during times of peace and war.

Recently, the 9th edition of the World Radio Day was celebrated on February 13 to celebrate radio as a medium of entertainment and information and the mode of communication. The theme of this year's World Radio Day is 'Radio and Diversity'.

The objective this year is to encourage the decision makers to establish and provide accessibility to information through radio. It also aims to enhance the networking and international cooperation among broadcasters. On this day UNESCO has appealed to radio stations to uphold diversity, both in their newsroom as well as on the airwaves.

In India Radio broadcasting started in the early 1920s and in 1923, the first programme was aired by the Radio Club of Bombay. Lord Irwin, then Viceroy of India, inaugurated the Indian Broadcast Company (IBC) in Bombay.

All India Radio (AIR) is one of the largest radio networks in the world. It was founded in 1956. Until 1993, AIR was the only radio broadcaster in India.

FM broadcasting began in July 23, 1977, in Chennai. Radio City Banglore was the first private FM radio station that started on July 3, 2001. In India, private FM is not allowed to broadcast news.

World Unani Day: The World Unani Day is celebrated on 11th February every year. The Day is celebrated globally to spread awareness about health care delivery with the help of Unani system of medicine through its preventive and curative philosophy. This day is also celebrated to the birth Anniversary of Hakim Ajmal Khan.

He was an Indian Unani Physician and a social reformer. He was a versatile genius who was also a noted freedom fighter, a Unani medical educationist and founder of scientific research in Unani System of Medicine. He was one of the founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He was a descendant of one of the line of physicians called the Rais of Delhi who came to India during reign of Mughal Emperor Babar. His grandfather Hakim Sharif Khan was a physician to Mughal Emperor Shah Alam.

Unani Medicinal system: Unani medicine is a system of alternative medicine. It originated in ancient Greece but is now practiced primarily in India. It involves the use of herbal remedies, dietary practices, and alternative therapies, Unani medicine addresses the prevention and treatment of disease.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science: The day is observed globally on the 11th of February annually. The United Nations in December 2015, adopted a resolution to celebrate February 11 as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day is celebrated with an aim to recognize the critical role of women and girls play in science and technology. The day was celebrated in 2016 for the first time. The idea behind this day is to ensure equal participation and involvement of women and girls in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The theme of 2020 is 'Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.' The theme focuses on the empowerment of women and girls giving them equal access and motivating them to opt for science.

World Pulses Day: The day has been proclaimed on February 10 of each year since 2019 by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 20, 2018. World Pulses Day is a designated United Nations global event to recognize the importance of pulses (chickpeas, dry beans, lentils, dry peas and lupins among others) as a global food. Pulses are healthy, nutritious, protein-rich, nitrogen-fixing legumes alive.

World Pulses Day is a great opportunity to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of eating pulses. The day is also a recognition of the decisive role that pulses can play in achieving the far-reaching universal and transformative goals and targets of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action that seeks to strengthen universal peace.

Afghanistan: Afghanistan officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is bordered by Pakistan to the east and south, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north and China to the northeast. Its capital is Kabul. The currency used here is Afghan afghani (AFN).

Recently, Ashraf Ghani secured the second term as Afghan president. Aghanistan’s election body declared Ashraf Ghani the winner of the 2019 presidential poll on 18th February 2020, almost five months after voting took place. Dr Abdullah Abdullah was the runner up.

Ghani and Abdullah head a fragile national unity government that was put together under the US pressure after both leaders claimed victory in Afghanistan's 2014 elections.

Bangladesh: The country of Bengal officially called the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a country in South Asia. Its capital is Dhaka. The currency used here is Bangladeshi taka. The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh is Sheikh Hasina and the President is M Abdul Hamid.

Recently, on 21 february 2020, Bangladesh observed the 'Shaheed Dibash' which is also known as 'Amar Ekushey'. The day is observed annually to commemorate and to pay tribute to the martyrs of language movement. President M Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh commemorated the day by paying tribute to martyrs who lost their lives during Pakistani police firing on 21st of February 1952 in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh’s Language Movement which started in 1948 reached to its peak when 8 people laid down their lives on February 21, 1952. The movement concluded with the adoption of Bangla as the official language of the then East Pakistan. As a result of the movement, 21st February is observed every year to commemorate the martyrs of the Bangladesh’s Language Movement. UNESCO has also adopted a resolution to celebrate 21 February as International Mother Language Day. The resolution and the marking of the day is an honour bestowed by the international community on the Language Movement of Bangladesh.

World Day of Social Justice: The World Day of Social Justice is celebrated every year globally on 20 February to encourage people to look at how social justice affects poverty eradication. It also focuses on the goal of achieving full employment and support for social integration. The International Labour Organization unanimously adopted the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization on 10 June 2008. On November 26, 2007, the UN General Assembly named February 20 as the annual World Day of Social Justice. The day was scheduled to be first observed in 2009.

Recently, the World Day of Social Justice (WDSJ) was observed globally on 20th February 2020. The theme of 2020 is “Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice”. It focuses on social justice as it is the global mission of the UN to promote the development and human dignity.

Australia: Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. Its capital is Canberra. The currency used here is Australian dollar. The current Prime Minister of Australia is Scott Morrison.

Recently, Australia appointed Barry O'Farrell as the next high commissioner to India. He will succeed Harinder Sidhu who has been in the office since 2016.

Mr O'Farrell served in the New South Wales Parliament from 1995-2015 and the 43rd Premier of the province. He also served as New South Wales' Special Envoy for India and made a significant contribution as the Deputy Chair of the Australia- India Council Board.

WEF's Common Trust Network: Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan, recently addressed the event on Restoring Cross Border Mobility by World Economic Forum’s Common Trust Network through Video Conference.

The main purpose of the event was to discuss the policies, practices and partnerships needed to reopen borders and enable essential travel, tourism and commerce in a safe and sustainable way.

Background: The countries around the world are working to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and restart their economies. They are all facing the challenge of how to reopen their borders and allow travel and commerce to resume while protecting their populations’ health. So to address this challenge, The Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum have launched the Common Trust Network in collaboration with a broad voluntary network of public and private stakeholders.

The Common Trust Network is designed

a) to empower individuals with digital access to their health information,

b) to make it easier for individuals to understand and comply with each destination’s requirements, and

c) to help ensure that only verifiable lab results and vaccination records from trusted sources are presented for the purposes of cross-border travel and commerce.

Common Trust Registry: The Common Trust Network is enabled by a global registry of trusted laboratory and vaccination data sources, standard formats for lab results and vaccination records, and standard tools to make those results and records digitally accessible.

It is also enabled by a common global registry for governments and other destinations to publish their health screening entry rules in a common format, making it easier for travellers and the travel industry to understand and comply with each destination’s requirements.

World NTD Day: It refers to the World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day. January 30, 2021 marked the second annual World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Day, highlighting the global community’s commitment to ending Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Background: World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day was celebrated for the first time on 30 January 2020. Originally announced by the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi at the 2019 Reaching the Last Mile Forum, hundreds of partners signed up to mark World NTD Day and demand action to Face NTDs and End The Neglect.

The WHO Executive Board recommended support of World NTD Day, an important milestone in adding the day to the official global calendar.

Why 30th January?

30th January was marked as the World NTD Day because it marks the anniversary of the 2012 London declaration on NTDs. The declaration unified the partners across the sectors, countries and disease communities to enable greater investment and action on NTDs.

2021 World NTD Day:

On World NTD Day this year, more than 50 landmarks representing 25 nations across the world will be lit up to celebrate how far we have come together in beating NTDs.

India too will join these countries, by illuminating UNESCO world heritage site Qutub Minar.

What are NTDs?

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of 20 conditions that affect more than a billion people in rural regions, poor urban areas and conflict zones, with devastating health, social and economic consequences – but they are preventable and treatable.

These NTDs are common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa and parasitic worms (helminths). They include dengue, rabies, blinding trachoma, Buruli ulcer, endemic treponematoses (yaws), leprosy (Hansen disease) etc.

These diseases are contrasted with the big three infectious diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), which generally receive greater treatment and research funding.

One  in five people around the world are affected by NTDs.

India is home to the world’s largest absolute burden of at least 11 of these major neglected tropical diseases.

International Energy Agency (IEA): The Framework for Strategic Partnership between the International Energy Agency (IEA) members and the Government of India GoI) was recently signed.

Objective: Its main objective is to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation & enhance global energy security, stability and sustainability. This partnership will lead to an extensive exchange of knowledge and would be a stepping stone towards India becoming a full member of the IEA.

About IEA: The International Energy Agency (IEA) is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization. It was established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. The IEA is made up of 30 member countries. In addition, the IEA family also includes eight association countries which include Brazil, China and India.

Three countries are seeking accession to full membership, Chile, Israel and Lithuania.

World Economic Forum’s Davos Dialogue:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently addressed the World Economic Forum’s Davos Dialogue on 28th January, 2021 via video conferencing.

Key Highlights:

The virtual session was attended by more than 400 top industry leaders from across the world.

PM Modi will be delivered his speech on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution- using technology for the good of humanity”. He also interacted with the CEOs during the Davos Dialogue.

This is the 51st annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The Davos Dialogues agenda marks the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset Initiative in the post COVID world.

The WEF annual meeting in Davos helps to bring together the top leaders of the world who will help in shaping the regional, global and industry agendas for 2021.

Great Reset Initiative: The Great Reset Initiative organised in June 2020 was the 50th annual meeting of WEF. The initiative had brought together the high profile business and political leaders who were convened by WEF and Prince of Wales. The meeting was organised under the theme of Rebuilding the society and economy in a sustainable way for the post-COVID-19 world.

WEF: It refers to the World Economic Forum. The WEF is headquartered in Cologny, Geneva Canton, Switzerland. It is an international NGO, founded in January 1971. The WEF's mission is stated as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas". The annual meeting of WEF is held in Davos, Switzerland every year at the end of the month January. The founder and Executive Chairman of WEF is Klaus Schwab.

US and Palestine: U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration recently announced that it was restoring relations with the Palestinians and renewing aid to Palestinian refugees.

It is a reversal of the Donald Trump administration’s cutoff and a key element of its new support for a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestine: Palestine, recognized officially as the State of Palestine by the United Nations and other entities, is a de jure sovereign state in Western Asia claiming the West Bank (bordering Israel and Jordan) and Gaza Strip (bordering Israel and Egypt) with Jerusalem as the designated capital, although its administrative center is currently located in Ramallah.

The entirety of territory claimed by the State of Palestine has been occupied since 1948, first by Egypt and Jordan and then by Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967.

The region (or at least a part of it) is also known as the Holy Land and is held sacred among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Since the 20th century it has been the object of conflicting claims of Jewish and Arab national movements, and the conflict has led to prolonged violence and, in several instances, open warfare.

Estonia: Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden, to the south by Latvia, and to the east by Lake Peipus and Russia. The territory of Estonia consists of the mainland and of 2,222 islands in the Baltic Sea. The capital of Estonia is Tallinn. The currency used here is Euro.

Recently, the former Member of the European Parliament, Kaja Kallas, the leader of the Reform Party has become Estonia’s first female prime minister.

The Reform Party, led by Kallas, won the 2019 parliamentary election in Estonia with 34 MPs in the country’s 101-seat parliament, Riigikogu.

With this win, Estonia has currently become the only country in the world where both the president Kersti Kaljulaid and the prime minister are women.

About Kaja Kallas: The 43 years old Kaja Kallas is a lawyer and the former European Parliament Member. She is the daughter of Sim Kallas who founded the Reform Party and was PM of Estonia from 2002-2003.

Myanmar coup: The military of Myanmar recently staged a coup on 1st February, 2021, detaining de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and declaring it had taken control of the country for one year under a state of emergency.

The intervention came after weeks of rising tensions between the military, which ruled the country for nearly five decades, and the civilian government. The army alleged that the recent landslide election win by Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) was marred by fraud.

The military declared, via its own television channel, a one-year state of emergency.

The new army regime announced the establishment of a new State Administrative Council which will be headed by the Army Chief General Min Aung Hlaing. It comprises of total 11 members. Out of the 11 members the eight members are from the military itself.

Tatmadaw said that it has reinstated all the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts in the region and states.

The developments triggered a quick response from the United States and Australia, with both calling for the release of detained NLD leaders and the restoration of democracy.

United State President Joe Biden raised the threat of new sanctions, with the UN and UK also condemning the coup.

Myanmar: Myanmar officially the Republic of the Union of Myanma  was formerly known as Burma. It is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups. It is bordered by Bangladesh and India to its northwest, China to its northeast, Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast, and the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest. The capital of Naypyitaw. The currency used here Burmese kyat.

UK Special Visa Scheme for Hong Kong Residents: The UK, from 2 February 2021 is opening a special visa scheme that will allow lakhs of Hong Kong (HK) residents a chance to migrate and eventually apply for British citizenship.

Visas will be issued to those in Hong Kong who hold a British National (Overseas) passport and their immediate dependents, and will offer a fast track to UK citizenship.

Applicants who get the visa can live and work in the UK for 5 years, after which they apply for settlement. Twelve months after this, they can apply for citizenship.

The move by UK is considered to be the most generous welcoming of foreign workers since the entry of new EU citizens in 2004 — when 10 countries were added to the bloc– at a time when the UK was also a member.

The move comes few months after China implemented a sweeping national security law over the former British colony, taking aim at pro-democracy protests that had captured global attention since 2019.

New START Nuclear Arms Control Treaty: The United States recently extended the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) nuclear arms control treaty with Russia for five years. The move was announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

This move seeks to make the world safer as an unconstrained nuclear competition would endanger everyone.

President Joe Biden and his Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly discussed it by phone a week ago, and subsequently Mr Putin signed it into law on Friday.

The treaty had been set to lapse on 5 February, as the Trump administration had refused to approve the extension.

Now the pact has been extended to 5th February 2026.

About: New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. It was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague. The treaty went into effect in 2011. Under this treaty, it limits United States and Russia to deploying no more than 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads each and it also imposes restrictions on the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.

Walking While Trans’ Ban: New York Governor has recently signed a bill repealing a controversial law known as the “Walking While Trans” ban. The law has been widely criticized for disproportionately discriminating against transgender people of colour.

‘Walking While Trans’ ban is the colloquial name for a law, which was originally passed in 1976 with the intention of prohibiting loitering for the purpose of prostitution.

The law is widely criticized for its vagueness as it allows New York police to arrest or apprehend someone walking on the street if they suspect that they are sex workers.

While the law is mostly used against women, several men too, have been arrested or detained merely because police suspected that they were “loitering for the purpose of prostitution”.

But the law is known for disproportionately impacting trans women, especially trans women of colour. Between 2012 and 2015, at least 85% of those arrested under the law were Black or Latino people and in 2019 alone, 91% of people arrested under the law belonged to these two groups, and around 80% identified as women.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation:  International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female is observed on 6 February anually across the globe.

This day is sponsored by the United Nations for their efforts to eradicate female genital mutilation.

It was first held in 2003.

This year theme of International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female 2021 is "No Time for Global Inaction: Unite, Fund, and Act to End Female Genital Mutilation".

The main purpose of observing this day is to promote the elimination of female genital mutilation, coordinated and systematic efforts are needed, and they must engage whole communities and focus on human rights, gender equality, sexual education and attention to the needs of women and girls who suffer from its consequences.

About FMG: Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights, the health and the integrity of girls and women.  Girls who undergo female genital mutilation face short-term complications such as severe pain, shock, excessive bleeding, infections, and difficulty in passing urine, as well as long-term consequences for their sexual and reproductive health, mental health and even death.

Proud Boys: Canada has recently announced that it will be designating the US-based far-right group ‘Proud Boys’ as a terrorist entity in an attempt to crack down on “ideologically motivated violent extremism” in the country.

The move comes after members of the Proud Boys were found to have played integral roles in the US Capitol insurrection last month.

With this, the all-male neo-fascist group will be added to a lengthy list of international terrorist organizations, that includes ISIS, Al Qaeda and al-Shabab.

About Proud Boys:

The Proud Boys is an all-male neo-fascist group. It was founded in 2016 by Vice Media co-founder and Canadian-British right-wing activist Gavin McInnes.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, this group is known for their “anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric”.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the group is also known for anti-transgender, anti-immigration and anti-Semitic views.

The members of this group usually don a fixed uniform of red ‘Make America Great Again’ caps from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and black and yellow polo shirts.

Proud Boys have also been associated with other far-right gatherings and protest marches that have turned violent, such as the infamous ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina in 2017.

World Radio Day (WRD): The day is celebrated on 13 February every year globally. The main objective behind celebrating WRD is to raise awareness among the public and the media of the importance of radio, to encourage decision-makers to establish and provide access to information through radio; as well as to enhance networking and international cooperation among broadcasters.

In 2011, UNESCO's General Conference, at its 36th session, proclaimed February 13 as World Radio Day. The day February 13 was proposed by the Director-General of UNESCO because it coincides with the anniversary of the United Nations Radio, the UN's international broadcasting service was established on February 13, 1946.

Theme for WRD 2021: The theme of WRD 2021 is "New World, New Radio", will highlight the services rendered by the radio medium throughout the crisis.

On the occasion of WRD 2021, UNESCO calls on radio stations to celebrate this event’s 10th anniversary and the more than 110 years of radio through three sub-themes.

Evolution: The world changes, radio evolves radio is resilient and sustainable;

Innovation: The world changes, radio adapts and innovates- radio adapts to new technologies and remains the go-to medium of mobility, accessible everywhere and to everyone;

Connection: The world changes, radio connects - radio services our society during natural disasters, socio-economic crises, epidemics, etc.

United Nations Radio: United Nations Radio was created on 13 February 1946. In 2017, United Nations Radio and the UN News Centre merged to form UN News, producing daily news and multimedia content in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Swahili, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Hindi.

Radio in India: Radio is the primary medium and source of information. In India Radio broadcasting started in the early 1920s and in 1923, the first program was aired by the Radio Club of Bombay. Lord Irwin, then Viceroy of India, inaugurated the Indian Broadcast Company (IBC) in Bombay.

All India Radio (AIR) is one of the largest radio networks in the world. It was founded in 1956. Until 1993, AIR was the only radio broadcaster in India.

FM broadcasting began in July 23, 1977, in Chennai. Radio City Bangalore was the first private FM radio station that started on July 3, 2001. In India, private FM is not allowed to broadcast news.

World Unani Day: The World Unani Day is celebrated on 11th February every year. The Day is celebrated globally to spread awareness about health care delivery with the help of Unani system of medicine through its preventive and curative philosophy. This day is also celebrated to the birth Anniversary of Hakim Ajmal Khan.

World Unani Day was celebrated on February 11, 2021 to spread awareness about health care delivery through Unani system of medicine through its preventive and curative philosophy.

Hakim Ajmal Khan: He was an Indian Unani Physician and a social reformer. He was a versatile genius who was also a noted freedom fighter, a Unani medical educationist and founder of scientific research in Unani System of Medicine. He was one of the founders of the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He was a descendant of one of the line of physicians called the Rais of Delhi who came to India during reign of Mughal Emperor Babar. His grandfather Hakim Sharif Khan was a physician to Mughal Emperor Shah Alam.

Unani Medicinal system: Unani medicine is a system of alternative medicine. It originated in ancient Greece but is now practiced primarily in India. It involves the use of herbal remedies, dietary practices, and alternative therapies, Unani medicine addresses the prevention and treatment of disease. The theoretical framework of Unani medicine is based on the work of Hippocrates (460-377 BC).

Revival of Unani Medicinal System:

The system owes its present form to the Arabs who saved much of the Greek literature by rendering it into Arabic and also enriching it with their own contributions.

In India, it was introduced by Arabs and Persians sometime around the eleventh century. It saw the beginning of its revival during the freedom struggle due to the efforts of Hakim Ajmal Khan. He established Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College and Hindustani Dawakhana a pharmaceutical company for manufacturing of Ayurvedic and Unani medicine in Delhi in 1916.

Italy: Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country of south-central Europe, occupying a peninsula that juts deep into the Mediterranean Sea. The Capital of Italy is Rome. The currency used here is Euro.

Recently, the former European Central Bank Chief Mario Draghi has been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Italy on 12 February 2021.

The 73-year-old had served as President of the European Central Bank from 2011 until 2019.

He replaces Giuseppe Conte, who resigned recently after losing majority support from his coalition government over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

US to re-join UNHRC: The Joe Biden administration in United States is all set to re-join the UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago.

Trump pulled out of the Geneva-based body over what he saw as its bias against the Israeli government as Israel had received by far the largest number of critical council resolutions against any country.

Members also include China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of human rights abuses.

UNHCR: It refers to the United Nations Human Rights Council. UNHRC is the Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system. It is located at the UN Office at Geneva. It was founded in 2006 by the UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251. It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) that had been strongly criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members. The UNHRC works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The agency is involved in strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights across the world. It is involved in discussing all the thematic human rights issues.

The council comprises of the 47 UN Member States. The member states are elected by the UNGA by a direct and secret ballot. The members of the Council serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

The UNHRC holds three regular sessions in a year. The session lasts for a total of 10 weeks. The session takes place for 4 weeks in the month of March, 3 weeks in the month of June and 3 weeks in the month of September. The sessions are held at the UN Office Geneva in Switzerland.

International Current Affairs - January 2021

Cuba: Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet. Its capital city is Havana.

Manuel Marrero Cruz: He has been appointed as Cuba's first PM in more than 40 years. He was appointed by the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

He served as tourism minister from 2004, late in revolutionary hero Fidel Castro’s administration, continuing in the post under Fidel’s brother Raul and the current president, Diaz-Canel. His appointment as the head of government is part of a process of decentralization and generational change from the revolutionary old guard which is aimed at extending and protecting Communist Party rule.

The ECO: It is the name of the new common currency. Recently, 8t West African nations have agreed to change the name of their common currency from ‘CFA franc’ to ‘Eco’ and severed their earlier currency CFA Franc's links to former colonial ruler France. The 8 African countries are nations- Ivory Coast, Mali, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Togo, and Guinea-Bissau. All these countries, except Guinea-Bissau, are former French colonies. The announcement was made during the visit by Emmanuel Macron (French President) to Ivory Coast on 21st December 2019. Eco usage will come in to force in 2020. This decision was taken after Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had urged members to make efforts to establish a common currency.

According to the President of Ivory Coast the changing of the name of the currency will stop any interference of France in relation to the currency of these countries.

Prior to this, all of these nations used 'CFA franc' as their currency. The CFA Franc was initially pegged to the French franc and has been linked to the euro for about two decades.

CFA Franc: It is the name of two currencies, the West African CFA franc, used in eight West African countries, and the Central African CFA franc, used in six Central African countries. Both currencies are guaranteed by the French treasury. The currency was created in 1945 and was seen as sign of interference in its former African colonies even after these countries became independent.

Space Force: It is described as the world's newest war-fighting domain. The launch of the Space Force is the first in more than 70 years. The new military service falls under the US Air Force. It will be funded by an initial 40million Dollar for its first year. It was created in August to handle the US military's space operations. It would comprise of around 16,000 Air Force and civilian personnel. The Space Force will be administered by Secretary of Air Force.

US President Donald trump officially launched the new US military service' Space Force' at an army base near Washington. The US president said that amid grave threats to the national security of the country, American superiority in space was absolutely vital. The Space Force would help in deterring aggression and controlling the ultimate high ground.

The function of the Space Force is not to put troops into orbit but to protect the US assets such as the hundreds of satellites used for communication and surveillance.

WEF: It refers to the World Economic Forum. The WEF is an international organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland that brings together its membership on a yearly basis to discuss major issues concerning the world political economy.

3000 Global Leaders are scheduled to meet at 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Switzerland's Davos. The event will be held from January 21 to 24 next year. The Geneva-based WEF has selected "stakeholders for a cohesive and sustainable world" as the theme of the meeting. The event is expected to have huge expectations as the UN Global Climate Summit failed to meet the required.

The meet is to be attended by the global leaders from all over the world. It includes Russian President Putin, US President Trump and other leaders of top polluters. However, China, which is one of the top 5 polluters of the world, is to skip the event.

The leaders of countries who are to attend the meeting include India, Norway, Iraq, Switzerland, and Afghanistan among others. Union Ministers Piyush Goyal and Mansukh Mandaivya, ministers and the chief ministers or 3 states along with 100 CEOs will attend the event from India.

Even though the WEF meet does not focus on climate, it will make key decisions considering climate change as one of the factors.

UNGA: It refers to United Nations General Assembly. It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all member nations have equal representation, and the main deliberative, policy-making, and representative organ of the UN. It was founded in 1945 in New York, United States.

UNGA has given its approval for a new Russian resolution which will draft a new international treaty to combat cyber-crime which will draft a new international treaty to combat cyber-crime. The Russian-drafted resolution was approved by the 193-member world body by a vote of 79-60 with 33 abstentions. The drafted resolution will comprise of expert committee representing all world regions. It will also elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes.

The UNGA also approved a resolution strongly condemning human rights abuses against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.

The UNGA resolutions are not legally binding but do reflect world opinion

Guinea-Bissau: Guinea-Bissau officially the Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a tropical country in West Africa. It is known for national parks and wildlife. The forested, sparsely populated Bijagós archipelago is a protected biosphere reserve. Its main island, Bubaque, forms part of the Orango Islands National Park, a habitat for saltwater hippos. Its capital city is Bissau. The currency used here is West African CFA franc.

The opposition leader of West African state of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo has won presidential elections. He defeated his rival Domingos Simoes Pereira, head of the country's ruling party PAIGC. National Electoral Commission (CNE) President Jose Pedro Sambu today announced the result.

WHO: It refers to the World Health Organization. WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. It was founded on 7 April 1948. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO is a member of the United Nations Development Group.

Year of Nurse and Midwife: WHO has designated the year 2020 as the “Year of Nurse and Midwife” to honor the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

The main objective of WHO is to focus on improving health globally by raising the status and profile of nursing and enabling nurses to maximize their contribution to achieve Universal Health Coverage. The year is being dedicated to the midwifery as well as WHO is also a partner of The State of the World’s Midwifery Campaign.

WHO is leading the development of “World Nursing Report” which is first of its kind. The report is to be launched in 2020. The organization is to launch the reports prior to 73rd session of WHO which is to be held in Geneva in February 2020.

Florence Nightingale: She was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She was born in 12 May 1820 in Florence, Italy. Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organized camps to take care for wounded soldiers. During the Crimean war, Nightingale gained the nickname "The Lady with the Lamp". Every year on the 12th of December the International Nurse Day is being celebrated in her honor by International Council of Nurses.

The world Braille Day: It is observed annually on 4 January. The day is celebrated since 2019. It is observed to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people. The day is celebrated to honor the birth anniversary of Louis Braille. He is the inventor of Braille – for people with visual disabilities. Louis Braille: He was born on 4th January 1809 in the town of Coupvray in northern France. He became blind after a childhood accident, and he quickly mastered his new way of living. He created the system we know today as Braille, based on a system of writing developed by Charles Barbier at a tender age of 15.

Braille: It is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired. It is traditionally written with embossed paper. Braille users can read computer screens and other electronic supports using refreshable Braille displays. Braille was invented by Louis Braille.

JCPOA: It refers to Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is commonly known as Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal. It is an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program reached in Vienna on July 14, 2015, between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) together with the European Union. JCPOA began with the adoption of the Joint Plan of Action in November 2013 and after twenty months of negotiations and final agreement on April 2015; in July 2015 Iran and the P5+1 confirmed agreement on the plan along with the "Roadmap Agreement" between Iran and the IAEA.

On 5 January 2020, after the Baghdad Airport Airstrike that targeted and killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, Iran declared that it is withdrawing from the JCPOA deal completely but would continue to coordinate with the IAEA, leaving open the possibility of resuming compliance.

World Hindi Day: It is celebrated globally every year on 10th January. The day is celebrated to promote the use of Hindi language worldwide and also to present Hindi as an international language. Hindi is the 4th most spoken language of the world. Various constitutional provisions like Article 120, Article 210, Article 343, Article 344 and Articles from 348 to 351 are aimed at the promotion of Hindi. The World Hindi Day was observed first time in 2006. The 1st World Hindi Conference was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Nagpur on January 10, 1975.

Hindi Divas which is celebrated in India is different from World Hindi Day as Hindi Divas is celebrated on 14th September. It was on this day that Hindi was recognized as an official language of India.

British Parliament: The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the UK Parliament, British Parliament or Westminster Parliament. The British Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign (Queen-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons (the primary chamber). The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London. House of Lords of the United Kingdom is its Upper House.

Britain's parliament has finally approved Boris Johnson's Brexit deal allowing it to become the first country to leave the European Union by the end of this month. The approval has ended years of arguments that toppled two governments and divided a nation. Withdrawal Agreement Bill was passed by lawmakers by 330-231 votes. The bill will now be tabled in the House of Lords.

Croatia: Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, is a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea. It borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro to the southeast, sharing a maritime border with Italy. The capital of Croatia is Zagreb and the currency used here in Croatian Kuna.

Former Prime Minister of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, has recently won the presidential election on 09 January 2020. He belongs Social Democratic Party(SDP). He defeated centre-right incumbent Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was the first female president of Croatia.

Spain: It is a continental European territory . It is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is the sixth largest country in Europe and the fifth in the European Union. The capital of Spain is Madrid. Spanish is its official language and the currency used here is Euro.

The Parliament of Spain has confirmed that Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez is the Prime Minister of the country. Mr. Sanchez won 167 votes in the 350-seat Assembly compared to 165 votes against Catalan and Basque separatist MPs. He will hold the office for another term at the helm of the country's first-ever coalition government since its return to democracy in the 1970s.

He is planning to form the first coalition government in Spain since the country returned to democracy following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Pentagon: The Pentagon is the headquarters building of Department of Defense of the United States . As a symbol of the U.S. military, the phrase The Pentagon is also often used as a metonym for the Department of Defense and its leadership.

The Pentagon on Monday distanced itself from President Donald Trump’s assertions that he would bomb Iranian cultural sites despite international prohibitions on such attacks. The split between the president and his Pentagon chief came amid heightened tensions with Tehran following a U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. Mark Esper said the US military will "follow the laws of armed conflict" and the said rules prohibit targeting cultural sites.

Sri Lanka: It is officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The Capital of Sri Lanka is Colombo. The currency used here is Sri Lankan rupee.

Recently, in Sri Lanka, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) today urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take steps to fully settle the Tamil National issue and continue with the process initiated by the former government to draft a new constitution. TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran asserted that Tamil minorities are ready and willing to settle the national question on the basis of a united, undivided, and indivisible country that recognizes the diversity and equality of its different people.

The 13th amendment was brought up as part of Indo-Sri Lanka accord in 1987 and provincial councils were set up as part of devolution of powers, to meet the aspirations of Tamil minorities.

Statue of Unity: The Statue of Unity is a colossal statue of Indian statesman and independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950), who was the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home minister of independent India and the chief adherent of Mahatma Gandhi during the non-violent Indian Independence movement. It was designed by Indian sculptor Ram Vanji Sutar. The statue stands 182 metres high, making it the tallest monument in the world. It is at Sadhu Bet Island. The Statue of Unity which is a tribute to the Indian leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was unveiled on 31 October 2018 by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. It was unveiled on the 143rd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel.

Recently, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar announced that the World’s tallest statue on Narmada river, the Statue of Unity in Gujart, has been included in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s ‘8 Wonders of SCO’ list. Apart from the Statue of Unity the others incluided in the 8 wonders of the SCO list are Navruz Palace in Tajikistan, the Tamgaly Gorge in Kazakhstan, the Daming Palace in China, Po-i-Kalan complex in Uzbekistan, Lahore – the Mughals Heritage in Pakistan and the Golden Ring of Russia.

SCO: It is an acronum for Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It was founded by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at the summit in Shanghai in 2001. The supreme decision-making body in the SCO are the Heads of STate Council(HCO) who meet once a year and adopt decisions and guidelines on all improtant matters of the organisation. Military exercises are also regularly conducted among members to promote cooperation and coordination against terrorism and other external threats, and to maintain regional peace and stability. It is the largest regional organisation in the world in terms of geographical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population and is also regarded as the "alliance of the Ease".

India became a member of the SCO at the SCO summit held Nur-sultan previously known in Astana, Kazakhstan in the year 2017 along with Pakistan. Before becoming a member of SCO, India was granted with the observer status from 2005.

World Future Energy Summit: World Future Energy Summit is an annual event dedicated to advancing future energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies. It was first held in 2011 in UAE. The summit invites innovators, academicians, political leaders and industry leaders to create new business and investment.

The World Future Energy Summit began at the Abu Dhabi, National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), on 13 January 2020. The 2020 theme of the summit is Rethinking Global Consumption, Production, and Investment. About 33,500 participants from 170 countries participated in the event. The 4 day event included exhibition and forum programs that address energy, solar, water, waste and smart cities. It also focused on clean energy generation, water sustainability and discussions on the ways in which digital innovation can help to improve the quality of life in an urban environment was held. Along with the summit, the Climate Innovations Exchange (CLIX) was also held.

Abu Dhabi: It is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The city of Abu Dhabi is located on an island in the Persian Gulf, off the Central West Coast.

Corona Virus: Coronaviruses are species of virus belonging to the subfamily Coronavirinae in the family Coronaviridae, in the order Nidovirales. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome and with a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals, including humans. They are associated with the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and can also affect the gut.

In 2002-03, around 700 people died due to Corona virus in the world. The virus originated in China. There is no specific vaccine for the virus as of 2019. The virus was first identified in Saudi Arabia, in 2012. Most cases were found in the Arabian Peninsula.

Recently, a new stain of virus which has been identified as Corona virus by the researchers has been found in China. Chinese health authorities reported that a new virus implicated in a pneumonia outbreak was identified in the city of Wuhan, China.

Hormuz Peace Initiative: The initiative is led by Iran. The initiative reviewed the developments in the Persian Gulf region and evaluated the regional cooperation plans under the ‘Hormuz Peace Endeavor’ (HOPE). The HOPE was proposed by Iranian President at UN General Assembly meeting in September, 2019. The initiative aims at enhancing solidarity, peace, mutual understanding and friendly relations among countries in the region in order to guarantee the territorial integrity and political independence of regional states.

India along with other leading trade partners of Iran namely China, Oman and Afghanistan attended the meeting of Hormuz Peace Initiative which was recently held in Tehran, Iran. The developments in the Persian Gulf region and evaluation of the regional cooperation plans under the ‘Hormuz Peace Endeavor’ (HOPE) were reviewed at the initiative. The initiative aimed at stabilizing one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Strait of Hormuz in the backdrop of US-Iran tensions.

Strait of Hormuz: It is the waterway that separates Iran and Oman. It is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world's most strategically important choke points. Iran lies on the North Coast while UAE and Musandam, an enclave of Oman lies in the south coast. The Strait is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just two miles (three km) wide in either direction. A third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and almost 25% of total global oil consumption passes through the strait, making it a highly important strategic location for international trade. Two-thirds of the oil and half the liquefied natural gas India imports come through the strait between Iran and Oman.

Taiwan: Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, is a state in East Asia. Neighboring states include the People's Republic of China to the north-west, Japan to the north-east, and the Philippines to the south. Its capital is Taipei. The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. The currency used here is New Taiwan dollar.

Tsai Ing-wen an opponent of Beijing, has won the Taiwan presidential election for the second time. Her Democratic Progressive party retained control of the legislature, according to final results. She defeated Han Kuo-yu with 57.1% of the vote.

WEF: It refers to World Economic Forum. WEF is based in Coligny-Geneva, Switzerland. It is an NGO which was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab. The WEF's mission is cited as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas".

The 50th World Economic Forum began on January 21, 2020 in Davos. The Indian delegation will be led by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal. The programme of this year, will focus on achieving the maximum impact on the Forum’s platform for public-private cooperation across six core areas of activity, such as - ecology, economy, society, industry, technology, and geopolitics. The theme this year will be “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World”.

Along with other initiatives to be launched the annual meeting aims to plant 1 trillion trees in the next decade and also to equip 1 billion people with necessary skills in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The forum has released a report on the role of passwords in in cyber crimes. According to the report, fourth industrial revolution reduces cost spent on maintaining passwords and their secrecy.

Nepal: Nepal officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It borders China in the north and India in the south. The capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. The current Prime Minister of Nepal is K P Sharma Oli and the President of Nepal is Bidhya Devi Bhandari. the currency of Nepal is Nepalese rupee.

Recently, the Integrated Check-Post (ICP) in Biratnagar was inaugurated at India-Nepal border. The inauguration of ICP was done by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P.Sharma Oli. IPC is built on 260 acres of land with the cost of Rs. 140 crore. This is the second check post that is being built at the border with Indian Assistance. India helped in the construction based on its “Neighbourhood First Policy”.

The ICP Biratnagar which is located at Jogbani-Biratnagar border of India and Nepal, is furnished with the some modern facilities such as electronic weighbridges, fire safety, warehousing facilities including the refrigerated cargo, 24×7 monitoring CCTV and public announcement systems. The post has also the capability of handling around 500 trucks per day which will ensure better border management for the movement of passenger and cargo.

Greece: Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic is also known as Hellas. It is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its capital city is Athens. Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, Western drama and the Olympic Games.

Recently, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, the daughter of a Supreme Court judge and who is also a senior judge and the first woman to head the council of state has created history by becoming the first woman President of Greece. She won with a cross-party majority of 261 MPs votes in her favor. She will be taking her oath of office on March 13th 2020. Greek Presidents have the power to confirm govt and laws and also has the power to declare wars.

International Day of Education: The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as International Day of Education in celebration of the role of education for peace and development. The first-ever International Day of Education was celebrated on 24 January 2019 as per the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 3rd 2018 to celebrate the role of education in development.

Recently, on the 24th of January 2020, International Day of Education was celebrated globally. The second edition of International Day of Education was organized in partnership with the CRI (Centre for Research and Interdisciplinary) by UNESCO. The day will examine the many ways learning and education can empower people, protect the planet, and build shared prosperity and foster peace. The Paris celebration will feature talks and discussions with education leaders from around the world, including youth leaders.

Great Britain: Great Britain refers to the whole of England, Scotland and Wales in combination, but not Northern Ireland; it includes islands, such as the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, the Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides and the island groups of Orkney and Shetland, that are part of England, Wales, or Scotland. Its capital city is London. The current Prime Minister of United Kingdom is Boris Johnson. The currency used here is Pound sterling.

Recently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday hailed "a new chapter" in Britain's history as he signed its divorce deal with the EU, clearing another hurdle ahead of the country's departure from the bloc next Friday. The agreement was signed by Mr. Johnson in Downing Street in front of European and British Foreign Office officials who had brought it from Brussels.

It allows Britain to end its decades-long membership of the European Union and leave its closest neighbors and trading partners after several years of domestic acrimony and delays.

Russia: Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a country in Eastern Europe with a vast expanse of territory that stretches across Northern Asia. Its capital is Moscow. The currency used here is Russian ruble. The Current President of Russia is Vladmir Putin.

Recently, the Russian Parliament approved constitutional reform bill put forward by President Vladimir Putin in its first reading, after less than two hours of debate. The Duma which is Russia’s Lower House of Parliament unanimously voted for the amendments after discussions. The second reading of the bill is scheduled for the 11th of February. Once approved in three readings in the Duma, the bill will go to the upper house, the Federation Council, before a final signature by Putin.

President Putin had submitted the amendments to the Lower House of Parliament. The second reading of the bill is scheduled for the 11th of February. The suggestions put forward by President Putin was that lawmakers could name Prime Ministers and Cabinet members and proposed a greater role for the State Council. He argued the proposed changes would bolster democracy.

The draft modifies the constitution to limit a President to 2 terms altogether, unlike the current version containing a limit of 2 consecutive terms.

International Human Solidarity Day: International Human Solidarity Day is observed every year on 20th of December globally to celebrate unity in diversity and raise awareness about the importance of solidarity.

Solidarity is identified in the Millennium Declaration as one of the fundamental values of international relations in the 21st Century.

The International Human Solidarity Day history starts from December 2002, when the UN General assembly established the World Solidarity Fund. This fund was set up in February 2003 to fund the United Nations Development Programme, which worked to eradicate poverty. The General Assembly, on 22 December 2005, by resolution 60/209 identified solidarity as one of the fundamental and universal values that should underlie relations between peoples in the twenty-first century, and in that regard decided to proclaim 20 December of each year International Human Solidarity Day. The day commemorates the establishment of the World Solidarity Fund.

Solidarity: The word solidarity is defined as an awareness of shared interests and objectives that create a psychological sense of unity and ties in a society that bind people together as one.

Singapore: Singapore, officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. This sovereign island nation is located just off the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia in Southeast Asia bordering the Straits of Malacca to the west, the Riau Islands to the south, and the South China Sea to the east. Singapore has no capital. It is an island city state. The currency used here is Singapore dollar. The current Prime minister of Singapore is Lee Hsien Loong.

Recently, the Hawker Culture of street food in Singapore has been inducted by UNESCO in its prestigious ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.

The Hawker Culture is a popular Singaporean style of street dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban environment.

The Hawker centres are naturally-ventilated premises with many stalls selling a wide variety from various cultures like Chinese, Malay, Indian, among others at affordably priced food. They are mostly conveniently located at the heart of housing estates, usually with adjourning wet markets. Hawker centres are a unique aspect of Singapore culture and lifestyle. They are known to master a variety of cuisines which they serve at the ‘community dining rooms’ where people from across all walks of life gather and share their unique experiences.

Hawker: A hawker is a vendor who sells food items and other inexpensive goods.

UNESCO: The full form of UNESCO is United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO was founded on 6 November 1945. It is a specialised agency of the United Nations aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture. It is headquartered in Paris, France. The current head of UNESCO is Audrey Azoulay. 

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. It is a metropolitan area and special administrative region of the People's Republic of China on the eastern Pearl River Delta of the South China Sea. The region is bordered by Guangdong province to the north and the South China Sea to the east, south, and west. It is the eight largest trading entity in the world.

Recently, The Senator of United States (US) recently blocked a bill called the Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act. It is a US bill that seeks to give special refugee status, called ‘Temporary Protected Status’ to Hong Kong citizens in the USA. The Bill would also allow them to reside and work in the country as a part of a federal program for individuals from war-ridden countries and for those seeking refuge from other difficult circumstances like natural disasters.

The legislation seeks to protect the Hong Kongers from ‘China’s tightening grip’. It tightens the grip by allowing the residents already residing in the US to remain in the country if they feared harassment by the Government and authorities in Hong Kong.

The Bill was blocked because according to the Republican Senator, Ted Cruz, the democrats used the bill to advance their long-standing goals of changing the immigration laws. The Senator also believed that China might exploit US Immigration laws which will ultimately lead to Chinese Spies working in the US in the interest of China.

Turkey: Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly on the Anatolian Peninsula in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeastern Europe. It is bordered on its northwest by Greece and Bulgaria; north by the Black Sea; northeast by Georgia; east by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran; southeast by Iraq; south by Syria and the Mediterranean Sea; and west by the Aegean Sea. The capital of Turkey is Ankara. The currency used here is LTurkish Lira. The current President of Turkey is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Recently, the Turkish Parliament passed an act that would increase the monitoring of civil society groups. The act is called “Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction”.

The Bill was passed following the 2019 report on Turkey prepared by the intergovernmental body Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The FATF is meant for fighting money laundering and terror financing.

Highlights of The Bill:

  1. The bill consists of 43 articles. The bill has made changes to seven laws on Law of Associations of Turkey and is meant to keep Turkey from being blacklisted by the Paris-based watchdog of terror financing.
  2. The Bill gives power to the Turkish government to appoint trustees to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to suspend their activities, seize their assets and monitor their sources of funding.
  3. It allows the interior ministries to replace members of associations if they are being investigated on terrorism charges.
  4. This will now empower the interior ministries to restrict activities of any organization and individuals in the country.
  5. The law is applicable to the international civil society groups operating in Turkey as well.

Note: The two main sources main sources of terrorist incidents in Turkey are the Kurdish-Turkish conflicts and involvement in Syrian Civil war. According to the Global Terrorism Index which is prepared by Institute for Economics and Peace Turkey was ranked 18th in the Global Terrorism Index (India is ranked eighth).

Brexit Trade Deal: The European Union (EU) leaders recently signed the EU-UK Trade ( European Union and the United Kingdom Trade) and Cooperation Agreement on December 30, 2020. This Brexit trade deal was signed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.

The European Union and the United Kingdom had agreed upon the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement on December 24, 2020.

As per the statement made by the European Commission, the trade deal will be implemented only on a provisional basis, as there had not been time for the EU parliament to vote on it.

Significance:

  1. The UK Parliament voted resoundingly to approve a trade deal with the EU, paving the way for an orderly break with the bloc that will finally complete the UK’s long and divisive Brexit journey. This is significant as the trade deal will do away with the threat of no trade deal Brexit on January 1, 2021.
  2. If Britain had left the EU single market at the end of the year without a trade deal, renewed tariffs and quotes would have damaged cross-Channel trade.
  3. Both sides hope that the trade deal, which was arrived upon after almost 10 months of intense negotiations, will form a stable basis to build a looser partnership.
  4. The European Union is the United Kingdom's biggest trading partner and if no trade deal was agreed upon before the end of 2020, it could have disrupted trade and push Britain into recession.

The European Parliament also must sign off on the agreement, but is not expected to get to it for several weeks.

The UK left the EU almost a year ago, but remained within the bloc’s economic embrace during a transition period that ends at midnight Brussels time —- 11 pm in London — on Thursday. With this, Britain became the first-ever nation to leave the European Union.

Myanmar: Myanmar is a Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. It was formerly known as Burma. Its capital city is Naypyidaw. The currency used here is Burmese Kyat. The current President of Myanmar is Win Myint.

Recently, the Myanmar Navy officially inducted the submarine INS Sindhuvir. The submarine was handed over by the Indian Navy to the country in October 2020.

INS Sindhuvir was commissioned on 25th December 2020, which marked the 73rd anniversary of the Myanmar Navy. It has been renamed as UMS Minye Theinkhathu by the Myanmar Navy.

This is the first submarine in the Myanmar Navy’s arsenal.

The submarine has been refurbished for the Myanmar Navy by state-run defence shipbuilder, Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) in Visakhapatnam. It is a diesel-electric Kilo-class submarine, which was in operation in the Indian Navy since 1988.

Gibraltar: Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory which means it is under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom but is not technically a part of it. (There are 14 British Overseas Territories in the world including Bermuda and the Falkland Islands.) It is a heavily fortified British air and naval base that guards the Strait of Gibraltar, which is the only entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. Since the 18th century, Gibraltar has been a symbol of British naval strength, and it is commonly known in that context as “the Rock.”

Recently, hours before the Brexit transition period ended on New Year’s Eve, Spain announced it had struck a deal with the UK to maintain free movement to and from Gibraltar.

Spain and the U.K. struck a last-minute deal over Gibraltar that eases access to the territory and removes the threat of fresh restrictions at the border with the European Union once Britain leaves the bloc on 1st January.

Madrid and London were engaged for months in diplomatic negotiations over the post-Brexit future of Gibraltar. Now this deal ensures that Gibraltar is not separated from Europe from a hard border.

Brexit left Gibraltar with a hard border situation with the EU. With the UK-Spain Deal, officially remaining a British Overseas Territory, Gibraltar will now be part of the Schengen zone and follow EU rules, thus ensuring that a hard border does not separate it from the rest of Europe.

Note: The name Gibraltar is derived from Arabic word Jabal Tariq translated as Mount of Tariq. Gibraltar is most famous for The Rock of Gibraltar, a 426 meter high limestone rock rising out of the sea. The rock can be seen for many miles. It is home to the Barbary Apes, a type of tail-less macaque which are the only wild monkeys in Europe.

Central African Republic: The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest and Cameroon to the west. The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest and Cameroon to the west.

Recently, Faustin-Archange Touadera was re-elected as the president of the Central African Republic with more than 53% votes.

The 63-year-old president has been in power since 2016 but has struggled to seize control of vast parts of the nation from armed militias.

Note: The Central African Republic, a producer of gold and diamonds, has a population of 4.7 million.

World Braille Day: World Braille Day is observed on 4th January across the world since 2019. The day is celebrated to raise awareness of the importance of Braille as a means of communication in the full realization of the human rights for blind and partially sighted people.

The Braille language was first meant to be used for military purposes, and was developed by Charles Barbier. However, it had two significant drawbacks, which were identified by Louis Braille. Instead of using the 12-dot symbol, Braille advised using 6-dot symbol code. After a few modifications and additions, the expanded English system, named Grade-2 Braille, was completed in 1905.

In 1918, the United Nations (UN) conceptualized the idea of observing January 4 as World Braille Day and marks the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of Braille – for people with visual disabilities. Hence, the first observance of World Braille Day took place in 2019.  

Louis Braille: Louis Braille was born on 4th January 1809 in the town of Coupvray in northern France. At the age of just 3, he lost his both eyes in an accident. This resulted into the invention of the of 6 dots- which is popularly known as braille.

Braille: Braille is a tactile representation of alphabetic and numerical symbols using six dots to represent each letter and number, and even musical, mathematical and scientific symbols. Braille (named after its inventor in 19th century France, Louis Braille) is used by blind and partially sighted people to read the same books and periodicals as those printed in a visual font.

Braille is essential in the context of education, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as social inclusion, as reflected in article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

UN Security Council: The Permanent Representative of India to the UN, T S Tirumurti recently announced that India has been asked to chair 3 important committees of the UN Security Council (UNSC), during its tenure as a non-permanent member of the powerful 15-nation UN body.

The 3 committees are:

  1. Taliban Sanctions Committee
  2. Counter-Terrorism Committee
  3. Libyan Sanctions Committee

Among these, India will chair the Counter-Terrorism Committee of UNSC in 2022, which coincides with the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.

India began its two-year term at UNSC from January 01, 2021. It is the eighth time that the country has joined UNSC as the non-permanent member.

In 2021, along with India, Norway, Kenya, Ireland and Mexico joined as non-permanent members in the Council.

USA: The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. The currency used in USA is United States dollar - USD also abbreviated US$. The capital of US is Washington, D.C. The current President of US is Joe Biden.

Recently, President Donald Trump became the first US president to be impeached twice. The House of Representatives voted to charge him with inciting last week's mob attack on the US Congress.

Trump was impeached for a historic second time on January 13 by 232 - 197 vote by the US House on a single charge of incitement of insurrection that left five dead and the Capitol ransacked.

It was supported by all Democrats and 10 Republicans, including Liz Cheney.

The Senate will not hold a trial before the 20th of January when Democrat Joe Biden assumes the presidency, meaning Mr Trump will escape the risk of being forced to leave early.

France: France officially the French Republic is a country consisting of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. It is historically and culturally among the most important nations in the Western world. France has also played a highly significant role in international affairs, with former colonies in every corner of the globe. The capital of France is Paris. The currency of France is Euro, CFP franc. The current President of France is Emmanuel Macron. The current Prime Minister is Jean Castex.

Recently, the Government of France organized the fourth ‘One Planet Summit’, through videoconferencing. The summit is aimed at protecting the world’s biodiversity.

The Summit was organized in cooperation with the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank (WB). The theme of the Summit was “Let’s act together for nature!”

It was inaugurated by the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron, and President of the World Bank Group David Malpass.

The summit is an international event that focused on biodiversity to mobilize commitments to protect the ecosystems and make links to human health.

The main aim of the Summit is to promote worldwide ecological transformation. The One Planet summit will measure environmental and climate protection combined with innovation and economy.

The Summit focused mainly on 4 topics. They are:

  1. The protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems,
  2. The promotion of agroecology,
  3. The mobilization of funding for biodiversity,
  4. The link between deforestation, species and human health.

Kyrgystan: Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic and also known as Kirghizia, is a country in Central Asia. It is a landlocked country with mountainous terrain. It is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west and southwest, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. The Capital of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek. The national drink is horse milk which is known as kumyz there. The 40 sun rays on the flag represent the country's original 40 tribes. The currency of Kyrgyzstan is Kyrgyzstani som.

Recently, Kyrgyzstan's politician Sadyr Japarov won a landslide victory in Kyrgyzstan's snap presidential election.

According to the Central Election Commission, Mr Japarov had won 79% of votes cast. Mr Japarov, who served time in jail for taking a rival hostage, will also have sweeping new presidential powers after voters by a similar margin opted to amend the constitution in a referendum.

Kyrgyzstan has been in crisis since parliamentary elections last October. The results of those elections were disputed, leading to protests and the resignation of then-President Sooronbay Jeenbekov.

OST: It refers to the Open Skies Treaty. Russia recently announced that it is withdrawing from the “Open Skies Treaty”. In November 2020, USA left the OST after accusing Russia of violating the pact– allegations that Russia denied. Moscow has now blamed Washington for its own decision of leaving the treaty.

About OST:

OST is an accord between countries that allows participants to fly unarmed reconnaissance flights over any part of their fellow member states.

The treaty was first proposed in 1955 by former US President Dwight Eisenhower as a means to deescalate tensions during the Cold War. However, it was signed on 24 March 1992, in Helsinki, Finland between NATO members and the former Warsaw Pact countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

It went into effect in 2002 and had 35 signatories, including key players US and Russia, along with one non-ratifying member (Kyrgyzstan).

The OST aims at building confidence among members through mutual openness, thus reducing the chances of accidental war.

  • Under the treaty, a member state can “spy” on any part of the host nation, with the latter’s consent. A country can undertake aerial imaging over the host state after giving notice 72 hours before, and sharing its exact flight path 24 hours before.
  • Only approved imaging equipment is permitted on the surveillance flights, and officials from the host state can also stay on board throughout the planned journey.
  • The information gathered, such as on troop movements, military exercises and missile deployments, has to be shared with all member states.

The 35 signatory states are - Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The OST is implemented by a body known as Open Skies Consultative Commission. This body has representatives from the member nations and conducts monthly meeting at Vienna headquarters of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe.

Sulawesi: Sulawesi is an island in Indonesia situated in the east of Borneo, west of the Maluku Islands, and south of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The Strait of Makassar runs along the western side of the island and separates the island from Borneo.

Recently, heavy rains in Indonesia are hampering the search operation for survivors following a powerful earthquake on Sulawesi Island causing destruction of property and lives.

More than 25 countries have offered assistance after Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appealed for international help.

Note: Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, and the country has a history of devastating earthquakes and tsunamis.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

More recently, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.

New START Treaty: The United States (US) President Joe Biden recently proposed to extend New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) Treaty by five years. The proposal was welcomed by Russia.

About New START Treaty:

The New START Treaty is a nuclear arms reduction treaty. The treaty was signed between United States and Russia in 2010 in Prague (capital of Czech Republic) to reduce nuclear arms production and utilization. It entered into force in 2011.

The formal name of New START Treaty is “Measures for the further reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms”.

  • Under the treaty, the countries will reduce their strategic nuclear missile launchers by half.
  • New START replaced the Treaty of Moscow SORT (Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty), which was to expire in December 2012. The term Strategic offensive arms means nuclear warheads deployed by Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles.
  • It is the successor of START I framework signed between the counties in 1991 that limited the warheads of the countries to 6,000 and strategic delivery vehicles to 1,600. The START II treaty never entered into force and the negotiations of START III treaty never concluded.

The New START Treaty is to lapse in February 2021.

United States: The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country consisting of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 50 states covers a vast swath of North America, with Alaska in the northwest and Hawaii extending the nation’s presence into the Pacific Ocean. The currency used in USA is United States dollar - USD also abbreviated US$. The capital of US is Washington, D.C.

Recently, Joe Biden took oath as the 46th president of the United States. He swore the oath of office moments after Kamala Harris, who became America’s Black person, first Asian-American and the first woman vice president.

At 78, Biden is the oldest president in US history and only the second Roman Catholic president.

He plans to kick off his tenure with a flurry of 17 orders. Biden will immediately rejoin the Paris climate accord and stop the US exit from the World Health Organization (WHO) and set new paths on immigration, the environment, Covid-19 and the economy.

Uganda: Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Uganda  lies within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally a modified equatorial climate. It is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom. The capital of Uganda is Kampala. The currency used here is Ugandan shilling. The current President of Uganda is Yoweri Museveni.

Recently, Uganda’s incumbent President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Kaguta Museveni won the of the country’s presidential election for 2021 for the sixth time.

Museveni secured 58.64% of the total votes cast, to win the sixth term as the President.

The 76-year-old leader is serving as the President of the Republic of Uganda since 1986 and is one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents.

LongOps project: The LongOps Project is a collaboration between UK (United Kingdom) and Japan. Under this operation, the scientists from UK and Japan will develop new and safe technologies to dismantle old nuclear facilities such as the Fukushima that were severely damaged by tsunamis and earthquakes.

The project is to use long-reach robotic arms and hence is called “LongOps Project”. The project will reduce the risks to human health and will speed up decommissioning of nuclear reactors that are non-operational.

The LongOps project is to be implemented at a cost of 12 million Euros (Rs 120 crores). It will focus on the rapid decommissioning of nuclear facilities.

Apart from dismantling nuclear fission sites, the project will also focus on automating parts of nuclear fusion power generation process.

In addition, the project will also help improve and dismantle nuclear fusion facilities, such as the Joint European Torus. The Joint European Torus is a nuclear fusion experiment located at the Culham Fusion Energy Center in UK.  It was the first reactor to run on the production fuel of 50-50 mix of tritium and deuterium. It was shut down in 2009 to adopt concepts used in ITER project.

ITER Project: ITER is International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. India is also a part of ITER. The other countries involved in ITER are China, Japan, European Union, Russia, US and South Korea.

The Digital Twin Technology is part of the LongOps project. It will analyze data at the decommissioning site and predict operation and maintenance challenges.

Disasters:

There were more than 21 serious incidents of radioactive release between 1950 and 2000 in Sellafield. Sellafield is located in the United Kingdom. It is the former nuclear power plant. As of August 2020, activities at the site include nuclear fuel reprocessing, nuclear decommissioning and nuclear waste storage.

In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The incident displaced more than 150,000 people. In addition, the flora and fauna in the surrounding area were also seriously polluted.